PHOENIX, Arizona, June 17. LESS than a month into the new college recruiting season in the United States, Michigan has claimed a major commitment, with rising sprinter Paul Powers verbally pledging to be a Wolverine.
Powers, now 17, has been impressive in the past year, particularly in short course yards. His 100 freestyle time of 43.99 from last October as a 16-year-old instantly made him a hot commodity, coupled with his 19.91 in the 50 freestyle this past February at the Georgia high school championships. In the long course pool he has promise after posting a 23.42 at the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational last summer and a 52.04 at the summer junior nationals.
Powers told Swimming World that he took an unofficial trip to visit the University of Michigan and its swim team two weeks ago, finding a perfect team atmosphere that appealed to him immediately.
“When I got to hang out with the team, I loved the team aspect,” he said. “Even at practice, they were doing sets together, the distance and sprint guys. They really have this team unity thing going on that I really like. Through my age group years I've never had a secure footing on a team, and I feel like Michigan does the team thing the right way.”
Powers said he also had interest in — and high praise for — Auburn University and Stanford University. He spent Junior Day at Auburn and was impressed by head coach Brett Hawke, and was able to learn about Stanford during his trip to Palo Alto for the 2011 junior nationals.
Powers' primary coach at Splash Aquatic Club is Andy Deichert, but national team member and NCAA champion Sabir Muhammad also works with Powers on a regular basis. Powers also has traveled to Charlotte, N.C., for training sessions with Dave Marsh and his elite team at SwimMAC-Carolina.
“He put five people on the Olympic team, so that was a natural thing to want to work with him,” Powers said. “Dave has a good sense of team unity, just like Mike Bottom does, and that was great to see.”
Powers' championship meet will be the junior national championships in Irvine, competing in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles as well as the 100 backstroke. His goal is a spot on the roster for the world junior championships. Powers will also swim the 50 freestyle at the U.S. Open, to be held immediately before juniors.
Powers, who will be senior at North Hills High School in Gainesville, Ga., said he wanted to make his college decision early in order to keep a strong focus on his studies in his final high school year. He plans to be an engineering major at Michigan, which future teammate and NCAA champion Connor Jaeger also studies.