By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, August 25. LONGHORN Aquatics has been known to produce some of the best swimmers in the world, with names like Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, and Ian Crocker leaving their marks at the Olympics. But lately, Longhorn's Masters swimmers have begun to garner some much-deserved attention.
Thirty-five year old Tyler Blessing has only been swimming Masters since 2005, taking up the sport again to train for triathlons after a 13-year break from swimming after college. Despite being a relative newcomer to the U.S. Masters scene, Blessing has posted some head-turning swims this year. At the USMS Short Course National Championships in May, Blessing posted times of 20.96 (50 free), 1:45.00 (200 free), 22.99 (50 fly), 51.08 (100 fly), 52.53 (100 IM) and 1:57.52 (200 IM) to grab three second-place finishes and three fourth-place finishes in the men's 35-39 division. His time in the 50 free was a career best, faster than he went in high school or college. Blessing credits Longhorn head coach and Olympian Whitney Hedgepeth and his Masters teammates for his quick rise in the sport.
"Athletic prowess does not always seem to translate into great coaching ability, but in Whitney's case it does," he said. "She comes up with some of the most interesting and fun workouts I have ever done, and they somehow never seem to repeat. I think her coaching is one of the reasons we have such a great team."
A world class facility to train in certainly doesn't hurt, either. The Longhorns train at the Texas Swim Center, which allows the team plenty of lanes, which contributes to fast swimming.
"Our Masters workouts usually have 10 lanes in a 25 yard pool or five in a 50 meter pool and the pace varies by lane from moderate, to fast, to very fast," Blessing said. "I'm not a great workout swimmer, but I usually have my best workouts when someone is pushing me, so my teammates have definitely helped make me faster."
While Blessing's teammates have helped make him faster, he's also given something back to them. Blessing coaches one workout a week, and enjoys giving advice to other swimmers.
"One of the most enjoyable aspects for me has been helping other people get better," he said. "I've had a few people come back to me later and say, "Hey, I worked on that change and I can notice a big difference. Thanks for pointing that out.""
This season, Blessing hopes to make some technical improvements to his strokes, while hopefully continuing to improve. At the rate he's been improving, that shouldn't be too difficult.