Profile: Skyline’s Ben Kurniawan is swimming in the fast lane as a sophomore

Ben Kurniawan prepares for a race with a focus and confidence that belies his age.

The Skyline sophomore has made quite a splash in a local pool filled with incredible talent and it all starts with working hard before the race begins. Confidence often comes from knowing that you put in the time and now is the time to prove it. And Ben Kurniawan is certainly proving it.

“Ben is extremely talented and he has the work ethic to match,” says Skyline Coach MoJo Murrett, who has coached some exceptional swimmers in her time at Skyline. “He does the right things in practice every day to perform at the highest level. He doesn’t say much but when he does, it’s worth listening to. And this year we are finding out that he is pretty funny.”

Kurniawan’s love for swimming is no laughing matter – he’s pretty serious when it comes to water sports. And he has been for quite a while.

“I first started swimming around 5 years old,” says Ben, the son of Sophian Kurniawan and Juliana Jong. “My parents had signed me up to try for club and I couldn’t even swim a 25-freestyle. I started to take swimming seriously around 10 years old, when I had placed second in the 50 backstroke. It was a bit of a wake-up call for me to work harder, so I started to spend more time on it and ended up improving greatly.”

Kurniawan realizes the commitment necessary to not only swim in high school but swim at a high level. He likes that swimming combines both the individual and team aspects in one perfect stroke.

“Swimming is a tough sport, which takes a lot of effort and time,” he says. “But what I love most is being able to stay connected with so many different people despite being considered an individual sport.”

As an individual, Kurniawan swam in two events at last year’s state meet as a freshman. While he didn’t place he posted some very fast times – 52.56 in the 100 fly and 1:59.95 in the 200 IM.

This year he is on pace to return to the state finals where he hopes to move on up in the final standings.

“I think overall my season is going well,” he says. “I had taken some time off during the summer and a bit before starting to train with my club and then coming back to Skyline. I had a good meet right before starting the high school season and so far feel like I’ve been improving. I’m definitely better than last year and hopefully will place at states this year.”

Placing at states is among his goals for this sophomore season.

“For individual goals, I want to push myself and hopefully place top eight in one event at states,” he says. “For team goals, although everyone works hard, I still think we can stay more focused so we can start to get even more swimmers with state cuts so we can have a decently big team there. After all, swimming is more fun with more people.”

And that brings us back to the team aspect of swimming. And Skyline has had some really good teams – including state champions – in both boys and girls swimming. Kurniawan points to the common denominator for the program’s great success.

“I believe Skyline has been successful due to our coach, Mo-Jo,” Kurniawan says. “Although she’s strict in practice, she still does encourage us to come together and really feel like a team. I think this environment helps everyone to hold each other accountable in striving to improve themselves. So even if we aren’t considered a strong team this year, I still think we can show up at SECs and states as a strong team.”

Kurniawan also swims along at a high level outside of the pool. He has a 3.97 GPA and is in the orchestra, Economics Club and school newspaper at Skyline. He has yet to give much thought about life after high school.

“I haven’t really thought too much about college, and I’m not really sure yet what I want to do,” he says. “In fact, I’m still unsure of whether I’ll be swimming in college. But if a college like U-M recruited me, I think I would take that offer. Swimming has been a part of my life for a long time so to continue it in college wouldn’t be surprising to me.”