How They Train Tanner Sonnek – Sponsored By TritonWear

Photo Courtesy: Gustavus Adolphus College

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It would take “blood, toil, tears and sweat” to be triumphant, intoned Winston Churchill back in 1940. Seventy-five years later, he could have been talking about Gustavus Adolphus breaststroker Tanner Sonnek.

A latecomer to the sport, Sonnek started swimming as a ninth-grader at Mankato (Minn.) West High School. His senior year, standing 5-11 and weighing 165 pounds, he finished fourth in the Class A state meet in both the 100 yard breast (58.53) and 200 IM (1:57.24), and clocked free and breast relay splits of 21.64 and 26.52 to help the Scarlets to a fourth-place team finish.

“One of my biggest regrets is not starting earlier than I did,” says Sonnek. After ninth grade, he joined the Mantas Swim Club, sending him on an upward trajectory. “The reason I chose Gustavus was the team feeling of family I felt on my recruiting trip. Gustavus has helped me improve an incredible amount in just two years.”

Just how much has been evident in his performance in year-end meets. This past season, he was chosen as Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Male Swimmer of the Year for his wins in the 100 and 200 yard breast (55.10, 2:02.12) and the 200 IM (1:53.06). He also swam on four all-conference Gustie relays. “Tanner had an amazing meet, stepping up big time. The honor is well-deserved,” says Coach Jon Carlson.

At the NCAA Division III Championships, Sonnek finished his season by blasting personal bests of 54.81 in the 100 breast (seventh) and 1:58.98 in the 200 (fifth). In a fitting coda, he was named Gustavus Adolphus Male Athlete of the Year.

“First and foremost, Tanner loves his teammates,” says Carlson. “His favorite time of the day is practice, where he has the chance to see his friends. Tanner loves the opportunity to work hard, and teammates love training with Tanner! He always brings great intensity, and he takes time to cheer and encourage his teammates during tough sets. He’s the guy that tells everyone that they are going to make it.”

The camaraderie Sonnek saw as a recruit was borne out his freshman year when he received a royal welcome after surging the last 25 to win the MIAC conference title in the 200 breast. He repaid them during senior night 2017: “I cry pretty rarely, but seeing all the seniors who would be leaving the program gave me a pretty good hug/cry session with them.”


• 4 x 50 breast @ :35
• 100 ez choice @ 2:00-2:30
• 6 x 50 breast @ :35
• 100 ez choice @ 2:00-2:30
• 8 x 50 breast @ :35
• 100 ez choice @ 2:00-2:30
• 10 x 50 breast @ :35

Coach Carlson: “If you miss, you move the 50 interval to :40. Tanner is an amazing ‘glider.’ We didn’t want to force his turnover. We wanted more explosiveness from each stroke. Once he was able to do this all the way through on the :35, we knew he could go under 2:00. We combined that set with a lot of timed 25s. Once we got him hitting under 11.0, we felt we were on track for both a fast 100 and 200 breast.”


SCY 2015 2016 2017
100 Breast 58.53 56.69 54.81
200 Breast 2:07.25 2:04.06 1:58.98
200 IM 1:57.24 1:55.51 1:53.06