Resilience and determination in the deep end

Swimmer Logan Boynton talks about his journey through athletics
PHOTO OP — Boynton (back, third from left) poses with his swim and dive teammates. Photo courtesy of Logan Boynton
PHOTO OP — Boynton (back, third from left) poses with his swim and dive teammates. Photo courtesy of Logan Boynton

Despite having asthma and being attached to his inhaler for most of his childhood, Logan Boynton has always been an athlete. He was on the football team, competed in track and field, played in the marching band and swam competitively throughout high school.

“I just need to move. I have ADHD and we didn’t know until I was in seventh grade. My parents were like, ‘this guy just can’t sit still’ but I also have asthma so they were like, ‘What do we do?’” Boynton said. “They kept putting me in new stuff trying to test how far I could go without my asthma affecting me. It was strenuous at points, but I worked around it.”

Boyton started swimming for fun in the neighborhood pool with his friends where his competitive streak would prompt him to have races, which he often won. He was encouraged to try out for the club team, but after one practice, he decided it was too much.

“I went to a practice and I only knew how to freestyle. They were trying to teach me all the new strokes and I got really overwhelmed and scared so I just sat on the edge of the pool crying and didn’t get in,” Boynton said. “I stepped away for like a long time and I was like, ‘I’m not doing that, that was terrifying. I’m never thinking about swimming ever again.’”

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In sixth grade, Boynton was convinced by his friend to try swimming again. He joined the high school swim team but since his school in Cass City, MI didn’t have a pool, he swam for the neighboring town of Caro. 

“I was good. I think I only lost two races my junior and senior year,” Boynton said. “One of them was to a junior olympian, and the other one was some other … elite guy.”

Boynton toured NMU during his junior year of high school and talked to the swim and dive coaches, Heidi Voigt and Matt Williams. 

“I don’t know what possessed me to do it … It was the middle of swim season, I was hot off my victory at our conference meet. I was like, ‘I’m good. They’ll probably throw some money at me,’” Boynton said. “The way I remember it was, I went in there and I was like, ‘hey, I’m pretty good. I don’t mean to brag, but I went a 102 at conference.’ Which, for context, is awful.”

Boynton talked to the coaches and found out what the top GLIAC race times were. When he heard how much he would have to improve his swim times to be competitive, he gave up on being a collegiate swimmer. 

Instead, he focused his energy into playing college football. During his senior year of high school, he tore his PCL and thought his changes of being a college athlete were lost.

“I tore my PCL playing football and scouts stopped coming around. I thought, ‘Okay, well, I’m just done being an athlete,’” Boynton said. “Then I got a random call from Coach Matt in the middle of summer, and he was like, ‘Hey, are you still interested in swimming? … We have a spot for you if you want it.’”

Two months before classes started, Boynton committed to Northern for swimming and started classes as an athletic training major. 

Going to college in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge, especially since Boynton was unable to build connections with his teammates.

“I couldn’t really talk to my teammates … When we were practicing, we had to be six feet apart at all times,” Boynton said. “Half the fun of swimming is those little conversations you have in the five seconds when you are on the wall between sets … I didn’t know any of my teammates for almost a year.”

Despite the steep adjustment to college, Boynton significantly improved his swimming times during that first year. After two weeks of practice, Boynton was offered competitive swimming instruction from Coach Williams to improve his form and race times. At the end of each practice, they would run form drills for nearly an hour.

“I dropped 10 seconds off my backstroke time in a year, which is unheard of. I genuinely think if I had any other coaching stuff I don’t think I would have had the motivation or been able to learn as fast as I did,” Boynton said. “College kind of sucks … it’s hard and I don’t want to sit on Zoom all day. Then [the coaching staff] said, ‘no, you can do this. I believe in you’ and it was just something that I needed.” 

For part of his junior year, Boynton joined the diving team to help fill an open spot and score points for the team. Then right before his senior year, Boynton was told he had been chosen as a team captain.

“I didn’t think of myself as a leader of anything. I was just a part of my team,” Boynton said. “It gave me some time to sit back and really think. Just because you are given this position as a captain, you’re still just part of the team. The only thing I do differently is I talk to these people about goals and challenges … I think I was fearful of leadership before it was presented to me. I’m less scared of it now.”

A big part of his leadership was talking to his teammates about their own challenges, goals and accomplishments. That experience was impactful for him, and shaped the way he interacts with others and thinks about his own role in a group setting. 

“It helped me grow a lot, not only as a competitor but as a person understanding how to treat people in a unit,” Boynton said. “Especially when I was given a spot as a captain … people would come and talk to me about struggles they’re having with athletics, and being able to understand deeply into the minds of how people work, it’s eye opening.”

Boynton also grew in terms of his personal goals as well, throughout his time at NMU. Even though he started classes as an athletic training major, he switched to political science after his sophomore year.

“During 2020, I was so obsessed with the election and the political state of the world that I was failing my classes,” Boynton said. “I was wasting so much time doing [online debates] instead of studying, that … my roommate at the time said ‘you should either switch to political science or start focusing on school.’”

After he switched to political science, Boynton found a genuine desire to learn and pursue his degree. In particular, he found a fascination with unions and their role in American politics. 

“I do genuinely love my degree. I love all the professors there. I feel good doing the work I do. I’ve spent the last year or so working on a couple of papers about union ideology and how unions are essential to the American political system,” Boyton said. “I’ve never had a feeling like that where I did genuinely feel like it was consuming my life. Every waking hour, I was thinking about unions and reading about unions and I didn’t hate it.”

With graduation in less than a month, Boynton is preparing to graduate and take a gap year to live with his long-distance girlfriend. He plans to study for the LSAT and look into law schools, after encouragement from his professors. 

Boynton is also spreading awareness about mental health and athletics as he wrestles with the many changes that come with graduation. As a recently retired athlete, Boynton wrote a blog post through the Student Equity and Engagement Center about the challenges of maintaining your identity as an athlete once your season ends. 

Moving forward, Boynton will continue to be an athlete and teammate in whatever way possible, as he advocates for himself and others. 

“I had to understand my goals in life changed. Part of why athletics was so appealing to me was because I was given a goal to achieve. ‘A goal bigger than yourself,’ as I put it,” Boynton said. “Retirement isn’t a permanent state of being, it is a process of change and growth.”

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