Chinook student Joshua Freund admitted into Harvard University

By Garrett Simmons

Communications Officer

Lethbridge School District No. 51

For a high school student, there are not many accomplishments that top being admitted into Harvard University.

This upcoming semester alone, about 42,000 hopefuls applied to the prestigious Ivy League school. Only 1,600 of those received acceptance letters.

Those are long odds – odds Chinook High School student Joshua Freund has beaten.

On Thursday, June 7, Freund signed on the dotted line, as the decorated student and swimmer will not only attend Harvard to study electrical engineering, but also compete on the school’s swim team. It marked the culmination of a long process for Freund, according to his father, Jason.

“It started about two years ago,” he said. “He wanted to reach for the stars. He was working with a recruiter and was asked what his dream school would be, and he picked Harvard.”

Josh’s dreams were twice put on hold. He applied during the first admission cycle, and that application was deferred to the second cycle. After another application, he was put on a waiting list. He finally received the call May 31, but even then, he had to play a nervous waiting game.

When the call came from Harvard, Freund was actually in the pool during a competition. The Harvard offices were closed when Freund checked his phone, as he was forced to wait until the next day to learn his fate.

“I called them back at 5 a.m. the next day from Vancouver,” said Freund, who added it took a few tries to get someone to answer on the other end. “Eventually, they picked up. It was the best moment of my life.”

Freund’s Harvard journey will begin Aug. 25 with a training session with his teammates, as the Chinook student will then travel to Harvard Aug. 27.

But it all began for Freund when he was four years old, when he first hit the pool. Swimming in a summer club, Freund began to rack up the awards, before he made a switch to a winter swim club in Kamloops. In 2010, he moved to Lethbridge with his family, and began competing with the Lethbridge Amateur Swim Club. Club records and national medals soon followed, as Freund progressed to become the third-ranked swimmer nationally among 18 year olds in the 100-metre freestyle.

“I’ve had so much support in town,” said Freund, as he gave credit to his Lethbridge coaches and the teachers at Chinook for helping him throughout his journey. “It’s been incredible.”

He added he has already been in contact with many of his teammates on the swim team, who have welcomed him with open arms. Freund and his Harvard swim coach have also kept in contact, as the two have spoken every two weeks since last January. And while swimming will be important, Freund’s coach made it perfectly clear where the Chinook student should put most of his energy.

“The priority is school,” said Freund. “The coach talked about student-athletes and emphasized the student comes first.”

That said, Freund is taking his athletic opportunity very seriously, with an eye to a very ambitious goal – being a member of Team Canada someday.

“That’s always every swimmer’s main goal, to make it to the Olympics one day.”

Freund has plenty of inspiration to draw from as he attempts to make that dream a reality, as his two older siblings have also competed at the post-secondary level. His brother, Kaelen Freund, is a swimmer for Penn State University, while his older sister, Brittany Freund, competed for the rowing team at the University of Victoria for a year.

Now, Joshua is set to forge his own path, and his family could not be more excited.

“It’s just overwhelming, it really is,” said Jason Freund, who added until last week, his son was preparing to attend university in Eastern Canada. “We were prepared for him to go to Western. We had paid his residence fees and told the swim coach there he was coming.”

That script quickly flipped when the call came from Harvard, however, and Freund is now set to compete south of the border.

Date posted: June 12, 2018