The propensity that Paul Powers has for swimming extends far beyond the hours he’s freely willing to put into becoming one of the nation’s best in the high school ranks. At a rangy 6-foot-4 and weighing 185 pounds, Powers, a North Hall High freshman, has an innate ability to glide through the water using his 80-inch wing span to create easy, fluid strokes.
“Having such a long wing span helps me grab more water,” Powers said. “It helps create the long axis strokes.”
So talented, in fact, that the future prospects of Powers, who only recently turned 15, includes swimming in the Olympic
Games, though it’s not something that is going to make or break his enjoyment of the sport.
“Paul is designed for sprinting and so raw in his swimming that the sky in the limit,” said Andy Deichert, an assistant coach at Emory University and mentor to Powers. “He has the athletic potential to swim in the Olympics eventually, but that’s still a long way away.”
Never in his wildest dreams did Powers think that his swimming prowess would take off like it has from when he took up the sport to fulfill a physical education requirement as a home schooled fifth-grade student in Florence, Ala. However, right away, he showed potential with a number of trips to state and southeastern tournaments.
Just four years later, he’s already jumped onto the national radar as the No. 9-ranked swimmer and now a candidate to join the prestigious Grand Prix Circuit, a series of seven meets that will let Powers test his abilities against the rest of the nation’s best.
His most notable achievement so far was setting a new state junior record in the 50-meter freestyle long course with a time of 24.6 seconds, a record that stood untouched for 28 years before Powers set the new mark.
Now, he’s gunning for state marks in disciplines ranging from the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, and all the way up to the 200 freestyle.
But if you ask Powers, he’ll say being part of a team makes it all worthwhile.
“What I like about swimming is that there is so much encouragement,” Powers said. “There’s always someone waving you on out there and makes it really exciting.”
Training to be the best at swimming isn’t just a matter of practicing a few times after school each week to compete with his team at North Hall. Powers puts in varying amounts of time training, depending on if he’s at peak training or trying to taper down before a meet and will spend up to six hours in a day training. And training isn’t just limited to swimming.
There’s weightlifting, basketball and other cross training activities to stimulate muscle development.
“His coaches do a good job of having him train in other sports to keep things fresh,” said his mother, Beth.
Monitoring his distance in the pool training is another critical aspect. Some days he will limit his distance to about 4,000 yards in the pool.
But on others, Powers may put in up to 12,000. Paul insists that his training is something that he wants in his life, not something that has been pushed on him. His parents have assured that as long as he wants to continue to swim, they’ll facilitate the training necessary to excel.
“Paul always wants to swim,” his mother said. “If he goes two days without swimming, he’ll start itching to get back in the water.
“When it snowed last week and he couldn’t get to the pool, we said ‘uh oh, the fish is starting to dry up.’”
Powers feels like swimming in Georgia is a blessing with so much top competition and events to compete. Now that his development has taken off, it’s also become a family affair.
His parents keep a calendar with meets to keep their itinerary in order. Travel usually consists of loading up the car for meets in cities such as Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, just to name a few.
One of the things Deichert looks for in swimmers at Powers’ age is the aptitude to potentially become a world-class sprinter. Powers isn’t afraid either to ask the experts what he needs to do to get better.
“Paul is incredibly focused,” Deichert said.
Basically, Powers is the total package.
“You need a lot of physical gifts to be a great swimmer and Paul has it,” Deichert said. “He’s got the power, strength and stature of a man, and a leg kick in the pool that is exceptional.”