At 15, Cole Buese already holds nine individual age-group state swimming records, three relay records, and last summer, the St. Xavier freshman posted a Junior National qualifying time in the 200-meter butterfly.
Buese’s older sister, Kelsey, is a senior long-distance freestyler at Sacred Heart Academy who took an individual state title in the 500-yard freestyle her sophomore year and has been an integral part of the Valkyries’s back-to-back state championship teams.
To those familiar with the Buese clan, all of this success in the pool has come as no surprise.
The Buese name has been synonymous with aquatic excellence since the 1970’s when Lisa Buese — aunt to Cole and Kelsey — rose to prominence as a Pan Am Games silver medalist in 1979 and a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games.
A 1981 Kentucky Country Day graduate, Lisa Buese competed with the Lakeside Seahawks before a successful career at Stanford that included a 1983 national title.
Kirk Buese, Lisa’s brother and Kelsey and Cole’s father was a standout as well, winning three team state championships at St. X from 1976-1978 before a stellar career at Vanderbilt.
As Cole begins his prep career and Kelsey puts the finishing touches on hers (she has signed to swim at Michigan State), the two have happily embraced the family’s past glories and fully intend to uphold the mantle.
“It’s a really good support system,” said Cole Buese, who specializes in butterfly, mid-distance freestyle and the individual medley. “My dad understands all the stress we have and my aunt has always been a really good role model.”
After trying cross-country, soccer and basketball in middle school, there was little doubt where Cole would gravitate.
“I started swimming at Lakeside at six and I always wanted to be a part of that. The pool was a second home,” he said.
Cole’s times in the past year rank in the top 20 nationally for his age group in six events, including No. 5 in both the 200-yard freestyle (1:43.96) and 200 butterfly (1:54.55) and No. 3 in the 100 butterfly (52.25).
“He could easily be one of the best boys we’ve ever had,” said Lakeside coach Mike DeBoor. “If he maintains his focus and excitement … he should be a player on the national level.”
The 15-year-old trains year-round with Lakeside while also competing in meets with St. X.
The Tigers, winners of 23-straight state championships, are 4-0 in dual meets this season, outscoring opponents 546-256.
“Cole’s always been a special athlete and he’s only going to get better as he matures,” said St. X coach Todd Larkin. “He’s a multi-dimensional swimmer and, as a freshman, he’ll even factor into our team’s chance of repeating this season.”
Kelsey, who has also been with Lakeside since age six, relishes the sport’s team element.
“You can race for yourself to try to get personal bests, but you’re always working for a team too,” she explained. “You get the best of both worlds — achieving your own goals and team goals.”
Valkyries coach Jim Luebbe said Kelsey’s “great internal pace” allows her to pick the proper moments to be aggressive in a race.
“She allows the race to come to her and jumps on it at the right time,” Luebbe said. “Often in our sport, people shy away from distance races, but she accepts the challenge willingly.”
A second team All-State selection last season, Kelsey has finished in the top five in the 500 freestyle at the last three State Meets (5th, 1st, 4th).
Rounding out the Buese family are Hallie, 11, who swims for Lakeside and dances competitively, and Mackenzie, 19, a sophomore at Miami (Ohio), who was an accomplished swimmer at the youth level and won a team state title in her senior year at Sacred Heart.
Cole laughed as he explained that their Mom, Camilla, has the least knowledge of the sport, but still contributes at meets. “She likes to tell my sisters to just look good on the block. She says it’s all about looking good.”
Up Next for the Bueses
Cincinnati St. Xavier vs. St. X, Saturday, Jan. 7. Racing begins at 2 p.m. in U of L’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.
Pannell Swim Shop/KHSAA State Swim Meet, Feb. 24-26, Ralph Wright Natatorium.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org.