By Jeff Commings
GAINESVILLE, Georgia, November 21. PAUL Powers was the first swimmer to publicly make a college verbal commitment this season, picking the University of Michigan back in June. But now he’s made that announcement official by signing his name on a National Letter of Intent this week.
Powers, one of the top recruits of the 2013-2014 season thanks to superb performances in the sprint freestyles, took the unconventional route to picking his college. He didn’t take any official recruiting trips, choosing instead to unofficially visit the Michigan campus in Ann Arbor and speak with head coach Mike Bottom. He knew immediately it was the place for him.
“I just took a stab in the dark, and I basically struck gold with committing to Michigan,” Powers told Swimming World today. “Everything there will fit me perfectly.”
Above photo: Paul Powers, front middle, prepares to sign a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Michigan. With him in the front row (from left to right) is brother Ty, mother Beth, father Randall and sister Katey. In the back row (from left to right): Sprint Coach Andrew Deichert, Coach Larry Bakin, North Hall High School Principal Joe Gheesling, Strength Coach Brian Smith and NHHS Athletic Director Richard Crumley
Powers was already a strong addition to the Class of 2018 after posting a 19.91 in the 50-yard freestyle at the Georgia state high school championships last February, as well as a 43.99 in the 100 free in October 2012. But his stock rose quickly when he returned from the world junior championships in August, where he posted a 22.53 in the 50-meter free and 49.94 in the 100 free.
“I didn’t have junior worlds as a goal,” he said. “My goal was to fix my stroke and be better technically. Not focusing on times was what I think helped me take the pressure off and just race.”
He also learned the importance of being a part of a team when he was in Dubai, saying he was “a little bit skeptical” about how he would get along with his teammates. He found a wonderful rapport with everyone even before the team left U.S. soil, and that camaraderie continued a couple of weeks ago during the junior national team’s trip to Tokyo and Beijing for the World Cup. There, Powers soaked up as much knowledge as he could racing against and being in the same environment as idols Vlad Morozov, Anthony Ervin and others.
“You get to see each different type of racing technique, and how everyone implements their techniques, not just in the race but before and after,” he said. “That’s not the kind of stuff you’d be able to see watching them on TV.”
Powers is looking to put that knowledge to use in two weeks at the USA Swimming nationals and in February at his final high school state championship.
“I have a time range in mind,” he admits, “but I just want to go out there and race and be the best swimmer I can be.”