Saunders keys in on prelims as he hunts for NCAA title

University of Tampa junior heads into nationals ranked second in the men's 400 IM

University of Tampa junior Brett Saunders comes into the NCAA Championships seeded second in the men's 400 IM (James Sutherland/Toronto Observer) 

University of Tampa swimmer Brett Saunders is using last year as a motivator for the upcoming NCAA Championships.

Last season as a sophomore, Saunders came into the Division II Championships seeded sixth in the men’s 400 yard individual medley. However, his prelim swim left him on the outside looking in for the championship final (top eight).

Despite ultimately winning the consolation final, the 21-year-old was far from satisfied.

“I was actually quite disappointed last year. I was supposed to swim that time (what he went in the final) in the morning so I could get top eight,” he said prior to jumping in for afternoon practice on Friday.

The native of Newark, Delaware, is primarily focused on one thing, and that’s performing in the preliminaries.

“It was a motivator to try harder in prelims for every meet,” he said. “This year obviously I want to swim really fast in the morning so I have the ability to swim at the top level, with all the fastest guys.

Saunders has a laugh during practice on Friday in Tampa (James Sutherland/Toronto Observer)

The junior is coming into his third National Championships ranked second in the 400 IM. While the thought of winning may ultimately be what he wants, he’s only thinking about what he can control.

“So that’s exactly my attitude,” he said when asked if he’s only focused on what’s within his control. “But at the end of the day I still would like to win, or top three, but I would be satisfied at the end of the day just being an All-American,” he said.

“I’m not going to worry about what (my competitors) are going to swim, I’m going to focus on what I can do.”

Spartan head coach Jimi Kiner attributes Saunders’ success to his training habits and learning to work smart.

“He’s always had a good work ethic, and now he’s starting to learn, you know, what it takes, not just working hard but being a smarter athlete,” said Kiner.

“He’s ranked second going into NCAAs and it’s just been an absolute pleasure to have him, and have that work ethic day in and day out.”

The Tampa school record holder heads into Nationals with a better showing of three minutes, 49.45 seconds in the 400 IM, and is also ranked 10th in the 200 IM, 16th in the 200 backstroke, and 17th in the 200 breaststroke.

The Division II Championships will take place March 13-16 in Indianapolis.

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Posted: Mar 9 2019 1:43 pm
Filed under: College Sports Swimming