By Ana Braccialli
Brett Saunders, junior Individual Medley (IM) and Breaststroke swimmer, is not just your typical swimmer. During his first four months at UT, Saunders dropped seven seconds in the 400 IM event and set a new school record of 3:51.05. Continuing to break records, Saunders lowered the school record on Dec. 16, 2018 and currently holds the fastest time in NCAA Division II in the 400 Individual Medley event.
“We practice 11 times a week so the conditioning is there for all of us, but the key is acting like the 400 IM is a sprint,” said Saunders. “The “fly and die” tactic usually works for me.”
Fly and die is a swimming terminology which means to go as hard as you can right from the start and a lot of the times it makes the end of your race much harder.
Saunders started swimming at the age of three at a country club in his hometown, Newark, Delaware. Along with swimming, he played tennis and became a four time All-American in triathlons throughout his middle school and high school career.
“Ultimately when I had to pick a sport for college, I chose swimming because I had put the most work in it, and I love being apart of a team,” said Saunders.
According to James Kiner, head coach of the swimming team, what makes Saunders unique is not only the work he does inside the pool but also outside of the pool.
“Brett does what he needs to do in the water but also takes care of his body by eating right, doing preventative maintenance, and doing extra such as yoga and cycling,” said Kiner.
Saunders carries a legacy with him. His mom, Jocelyn Muir-Saunders, in 1987, decided to go on a 521-mile marathon swim around Lake Ontario. This was the longest international marathon swim ever recorded, making her one of the greatest open water swimmers Canada has ever seen. Setting world records became a common thing to Muir-Saunders as she set nine world records and won a world championship.
Following her swimming career, she decided to become a professional triathlete, specializing in the Ironman distance. The Ironman is a series of long-distance triathlon races, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon 26.22-mile run raced without a break.
“She has done some 24 Ironmans and I hope to compete in one with my family when I graduate,” said Saunders.
Even though Saunders comes from a family where success is a normal event, he doesn’t see his mom’s achievements as pressure or motivation.
“Obviously I want to be just as successful as them, but I am more focused on what I need to do to be the best athlete I can be,” said Saunders. “When I am racing, the only thought in my head is how can I go faster.”
According to coach Kiner, Sauders is a great asset to have in the swimming team, who brings work ethic, grit and toughness.
“He is a hard worker. Never misses practice, [he has] perfect attendance this year, and is one of our top academic performers,” said coach Kiner.
The University of Tampa was the only school that Saunders was looking at that wasn’t Division I, however, when it came down to make a decision, he had no doubt on what he wanted.
“Right when I walked on the campus I knew I wanted to be there for the next four years. The coaches and swimmers there are awesome and I could not imagine myself going anywhere else,” said Saunders. “And I love it here, we have the best fans at our afternoon workouts.”
Ana Braccialli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org