Q&A with Jack Saunderson, USA National Team Member

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Jack Saunderson competes in the 100 fly at US Nationals in Irvine, California in 2018. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Alexa Kutch, Swimming World College Intern.

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Jack Saunderson placing top 8 at his last NCAA Championship. Photo Courtesy: Jack Saunderson

The Towson University grad and recently declared USA National Team member Jack Saunderson is making a name for himself. He is both an NCAA Championship and Olympic Trials qualifier. His breakout performances at Phillip 66 Nationals last summer landed him an invite to World University Games in Italy. He ranked seventh in 50 butterfly and fourth in 100 butterfly.

Swimming World got to sit down with Saunderson to discuss his experience and upcoming preparations for Trials.

Swimming World: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Jack. We would like to start by congratulating you on graduating college. How was your collegiate swimming experience and how do you think it propelled you to be so successful in the sport?

Saunderson: Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my swimming journey! I absolutely loved the college experience. I think I have to give credit to college for all of my accomplishments. Coming into college, I was an average recruit and fit in for a mid-major swim team such as Towson. My four years here allowed me to get to where I am now and I dedicate everything to that. My college experience holds a lot of importance to me.

SW: Do you think Towson was a good choice in comparison to a bigger Division I school?

Saunderson: Originally coming out of high school, I was not planning on continuing the sport. I did a little recruiting out of high school, but I do not think I was as prepared or knew what I was doing. There was this one meet where Towson was there and the coach at the time watched me and was interested. I was starstruck that a school was interested in me. Consequently, this brought upon an epiphany within me to actually try college swimming.

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Towson’s advertisement featuring Saunderson. Photo Courtesy: Towson Athletics

SW: How do your college teammates help push you in training and make the experience better for you?

Saunderson: The whole reason I joined the sport was because of the teammates and long lasting friendships made. During a hard set, they are there to goof off with me and keep my mind off things. I have to also dedicate my accomplishments to them. The sport can get rather challenging both physically and mentally. It’s the little things in swimming that make it enjoyable and great teammates make all the difference.

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Jack with his Towson teammates and head coach. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Rosa

SW: What was your thought process before, during, and after Nationals last summer?

Saunderson: Going into the meet, I really had no expectations on how I would do. After 100 butterfly preliminaries when I saw that I was top seed going into finals, I never thought I would have even reached a place like that. I think that’s why I did so well because I didn’t have my mind on things and I just swam my own race. After looking at my time, it was very pleasant surprise to see how fast I went and what place I got. Unfortunately, I think it was a mistake that I had never been in that position before. I don’t know if I really handled it that well mentally during the final swim. However, it’s just part of the sport and it was definitely a learning curve for me moving forward.

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Photo Courtesy: Jack Saunderson

SW: How does it feel to be a USA National Team Member? What is the coolest part?

Saunderson: It’s amazing! Before Italy, I don’t think I understood what it meant until going to a meet like University Games. We had team meetings with the head coach that were truly inspiring. He made us realize that this type of event is the best moment of your swimming career, aside from your college successes, records, etc. Every time we had the chance to represent our country, we should be very proud and that resonated with me the most.

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Saunderson representing USA on TV at World University Games. Photo Courtesy: Christie Kratz

SW: How was your first international swimming competition?

Saunderson: For starters, it was my first time out of the country. I didn’t even have a passport, so that was a whole process. As for the swimming portion, it was exciting to race in Italy. My favorite memory was making finals in my main events. The thought that I am in a championship final and representing my country on TV made me humbled and honored. It was really my first time stepping into a network where no one really knows who I am, “I’m the guy from Towson”. While it was nerve wracking at first trying to fit in, it was really cool meeting the other competitors and having conversations and just hanging out. Another perk was that the athlete’s village was on a docked cruise ship.

SW: With World University Games under your belt, what is your plan of action leading up to Olympic Trials?

Saunderson: Honestly, I am just taking it day by day. I know that Nationals this summer will be a good checkpoint for me to figure out my future training wise. It’s weird to me that I could very well have a shot at making the Olympic Team. I don’t like putting expectations or that kind of goal on me going forward to a meet like Trials. I am just going to focus on myself and see where the sport will take me.

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Towson University advertising that Saunderson is competing at World University Games. Photo Courtesy: Towson Athletics

SW: From all of your experiences, what have you learned about yourself as a swimmer?

Saunderson: I’d say that after my performance at my first international meet, I think I handled it well and I can take away that I am a more experienced and professional swimmer. Of course, I’m still learning and getting to know how these things work. This is exciting for me because I do hope to continue with the sport, but who knows what the future truly holds for me. I know that when I eventually retire from the sport, I will definitely miss camaraderie the most.

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Jack ready for the new era of his swimming career. Photo Courtesy: Jack Saunderson

SW: Lastly, what is your advice for young swimmers getting into the sport?

Saunderson: Something I live by is what my grandfather said. This idea to own your own story. I was the Towson guy, the underdog, so represent yourself and don’t lay in the shadows. The biggest thing for swimmers is to never give up and keep going and you can end up competing fast swimmers at prestigious meets. Being confident in themselves and their abilities, but also being patient in what they are doing. If it is not working out the way you plan it, give it time and keep pursuing. Most importantly, believe in yourself.

-All interviews are conducted by the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

3 comments

  1. Danilo Trias

    Great Story! My son is looking at Towson!

  2. avatar
    Anonymous

    Saunderson to Tokyo

  3. avatar

    The big story with Jack Saunderson is he stepped up and swam 200 btfl a fill in spot for another swimmer who was not up to his swim, only for Jack to swim an additional swim before his 100 and for that other swimmer who had rest beat him by 100th of second ! Says it all right there Jack is a humble good person ! Go Jack