March 10, 2009

Young extends season with last NCAA bid in backstroke

A week ago, third-year swimmer Brian Young probably would have said his season was over.He probably would have said that his swimming was done for the year, and the first thing on his mind would be prepping for winter quarter finals. Fortunately for Young (but maybe not so much for his studies), he’s not too focused on finals anymore, but rather the NCAA D-III Championships in Minneapolis, where he will be competing in the 100-yard backstroke.Young’s story has been a roller-coaster ride over the past few weeks. Three weeks ago, he swam one of his best meets at the UAA Conference Championships, leading him to be confident in his chances to qualify for nationals. He posted season bests of 51.44 in the 100-yard backstroke and 1:53.40 in the 200-yard backstroke and was a member of the first-place 400-yard medley relay team.“I thought I was guaranteed a spot with times well below last years’ selection standards,” said Young. However, after new racing suits had been introduced this year, the qualifying times were significantly lower than he and the rest of the swimming community had expected. “The entire swimming world received a massive boost in performance with the new Speedo LZR and BlueSeventy super suits,” Young said.He now knew that although he had swum his best, it probably wouldn’t be enough to make it to Minneapolis.Relegating himself back to the reality of classes, finals, and a cold Chicago winter, Young was ready to try again for next year. A week later, he found out that his year-long break had been shortened to a week, as the NCAA decided last Thursday to grant 28 extra invitations to the meet. Young got the 28th call.Young tossed his books aside and headed straight for Meyers-McLoraine. It would be a tougher road for Young, now that he had already resigned himself to life outside the pool, but he dove right back in.“After giving up on the meet over a week ago, I had not practiced until Thursday, when I found out I had the chance again to make the meet,” said Young. “Ever since, I have been swimming hard to build up a yardage base for my next taper. I am sure, however, that I will be at peak performance come next Wednesday when the meet begins.”Young has grown immensely as a swimmer while at Chicago. He came from a program in high school that was yardage intensive, regularly swimming nearly 10,000 yards a day. However, after coming to Chicago, Young has switched to lower yardage and more weight-lifting and dry land exercises. “I spent three years of training knowing that what I was doing was helping me improve, but never really seeing any improvement in my times,” Young said. “UAAs was my breakout and the best meet of my life.”Young walked away from the meet with team records of 51.44 in the 100-yard backstroke, 1:53.40 in the 200-yard backstroke, and 1:58.10 in the 200 IM.Young attributes his significantly slower season times to a shoulder injury and the intensive strength training. However, he is not disappointed with the program.“The training did set me up for the infinitely more important UAA meet,” Young said. Even in focusing on the most important meet of his life, Young remains relaxed.“I feel I have a great opportunity to show what I can do with little pressure,” Young said.Young is also confident that his times were not just luck, but rather the product of hard work.“While I am certainly at risk with my week off, I have other reasons to be optimistic,” he said. According to the circumstances of his top performances, he’s right. Young’s qualifying time of 51.44 in the 100-yard backstroke didn’t come in the designated event but rather in the preliminary heat of the 400-medley relay as a leadoff split. “I came into the race tired after swimming the 50 free and 200 IM earlier that morning and not expecting to swim anywhere near my peak performance,” Young said. “If I swim the race without mistakes, I think I should be able to improve my time and challenge for some point-scoring positions.”While Young will be alone in competition at Nationals from March 18 to March 21, he is most confident in his team’s future.“The record boards are going to be going through a major overhaul, as are the all-time top 10 lists which will be populated with plenty of 2009 times,” Young said. Swimming, swimming, and more swimming are what’s on Brian Young’s mind now. However, he said his toughest battle won’t be fought in the water. “The biggest challenge won’t be getting back in shape but convincing [professor] Paul Sally to reschedule my math final.”