(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – Reaching his goal of qualifying for the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships, junior Hayden Palmer will represent BYU in the 400-yard individual medley in Austin, Texas.
“I’m more excited just to swim there and see what I can do,” Palmer said. “A lot of swimmers who are going have already tapered and had a long rest from the end of the season, so I’ll have a big advantage.”
Palmer qualified for the 400 IM with a seedtime of 3:45:38. Palmer is also invited to swim in the 200 IM for his B cut of 1:47.96. The 200 IM event is held Thursday with preliminaries starting at 11 a.m. CT and finals at 7 p.m. The 400 IM will be held Friday with the same preliminaries/finals start times.
“Just barely missing qualifiers last year has been a big motivator for me to work hard every day,” Palmer said. “My first goal was to break the pool record, then I wanted to qualify for NCAAs at Texas and now I just want to try to score at NCAAs.”
Palmer had a great sophomore year (2012-2013 season) after returning from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After being named to the first, second and all-academic teams, Palmer was optimistic he’d qualify for the 2013 NCAA Championships. He missed an invite by just a few rankings, leaving him more motivated than ever to make it in 2014.
“I think it says it’s possible for those who are thinking of going on a mission but still have a sports future,” Palmer said on this year's success. “It is possible to take two years off if you work hard and set main goals with even smaller goals along the way.”
Palmer followed in his brother's footsteps who played water polo and swam competitively. Palmer’s parents kept him in the pool where he had a smaller chance of hurting himself after breaking several bones. Rather than letting Palmer exert his energy outside where they might spend the night in the hospital, they tired him out at swimming practices.
He finally found his niche swimming the individual medley while competing in high school. Over the course of his college career, he’s knocked over 15 seconds off his time in the 400 IM. Palmer says he’s more nervous in practice while improving on himself than he is during competition. In preparation for NCAA championships he’s been working on his fundamentals at practice.
“I feel prepared,” Palmer said. “During a taper your body feels different and some days I’ll feel off, but I’ll end up going faster than I thought. I’ve had to realize that it will all come together rather than taking it just by practices. When I’m on the blocks, I’ve done everything that I can do and there’s nothing more I can do.”
Though excited to appear in a national championship as a junior, for Palmer, simply making an appearance won’t suffice.
“It’s not really enough just to go. Once I heard that I was going, I was ready to go and ready to swim fast. I know not one swimmer can win the whole meet, but I want to put a dent in some of the potential points the teams can take.”
The championships are held March 27-29 at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center with Texas serving as host. Sessions of the meet can be streamed live, here. ESPN3.com will stream finals session both Friday and Saturday. ESPNU will also air a 90-minute show of the championships at 8 p.m. ET on April 9.