Paul Powers has the swimming world at his fingertips after years of dedication in the pool.
This month has produced the biggest milestone in the career of Powers, a North Hall High senior. After posting the second-best time in a pair of events at the Speedo Junior Nationals recently in Irvine, Calif., he’ll travel to the Persian Gulf region for the FINA Junior World Championships for a five-day competition starting Aug. 26 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
This marks the first international competition for Powers, who will be one of 52 athletes (26 male, 26 female) under 18 to represent the U.S.
“Going to Dubai is just on a whole new level getting to represent the USA,” said the 17-year-old Powers, who is already committed to swim at the University of Michigan.
“I’m not just going there to represent Paul Powers.”
Going to the Junior World Championships opens up many new doors for Powers, one of which is getting to see how he fares against the best junior swimmers around the globe. An estimated 1,800 athletes from 85 different countries get the honor of competing in the Junior World meet, which is held every two years in a different spot. Powers will be out of the country for two weeks.
Powers earned the spot on the U.S. squad with new personal best times and second fastest overall in the 50-meter freestyle (22.73) and 100-free (49.91). With a top four time in the 100, he’ll also be part of the 400-meter relay team for the U.S. He will leave for Dubai on Aug. 22 with the U.S. team and will be joined by his mother, Beth, when they arrive in the host city.
“We’re ecstatic for what Paul’s accomplished,” his mother said. “We’ve been watching as a family his hard work and dedication in the pool really pay off.”
As amazing as his performance was at the Junior Nationals, it happened under less-than-ideal conditions. Just before leaving for the meet, Paul came down with food poisoning. He says that made him lose “5 or 6 pounds” before hitting the pool with a spot in the Junior World Championships on the line.
Powers said the biggest moment of the Junior Nationals was his performance in the 50, when he managed to shave close to a second off his best time. That set the tone for his race in the 100, and he shaved more than two seconds off where he was swimming — 52 seconds flat — leading up to the qualifier.
“My family, we were all hyped up and riding high after that time in the 50,” Powers said. “It felt like I had one good swim after another.”
Powers changed his training a bit for the Junior Championships, knowing it would be held on a 50-meter long course. To get acclimated, he trained several times a week at the Cumming Aquatics Center and with a former coach, Larry Baskin, who previously coached Powers in his hometown of Florence, Ala. He also trains extensively with coach Andy Deichert of the Splash Aquatics Club at the Frances Meadows Aquatics Center.
Once in Dubai, his goals are set. Powers wants to make the finals and earn a top three spot in the 50 free and 100 free, while doing his part to help the U.S. 400-relay team earn victory.
Now, Powers is only .39 seconds off the US record for 17-18 year olds in the 50, set by Santo Condorelli at the Junior Nationals in 2013. In the 100, his time is .89 seconds off Michael Phelps’ junior record set in 2004.
“We’re so thankful God blessed Paul with such a talent and see him get to take it to the next level,” his mother said.