Paul Powers didn’t have much time to settle in for his first semester of classes at the University of Michigan, and the swimmer didn’t mind one bit.
The 2014 North Hall High graduate spent the days leading up to his freshman year winning a trio of races, two individually and one as part of a relay for Team USA, at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Maui, Hawaii.
“It’s such a great time because at that level everybody’s so good that everybody respects everybody because you know what goes into it,” Powers said.
In his best event in Maui, Powers set a meet record and a 17-18 U.S. National Age Group record with a time of 22.20 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle Saturday.
Powers has trained for the past few years with Splash Aquatic Club out of Gainesville and spent time training with SwimMAC out of Charlotte, N.C., ahead of junior nationals in August. The training Powers had over the summer and his tapering before heading to Hawaii helped lead to his strong showing.
“This is by far the biggest thing he’s ever done,” Splash Aquatic Club coach Andy Deichert said.
“I knew he would be a lot faster. He had more speed than he ever had before.”
One of the best signs for the 6-foot-5 Powers might be his constant aim for improvement even after milestones such as the one he reached Saturday.
“Even after you swim it like that, you still find things you can work on,” Powers said.
His other triumphs came in the 100-meter freestyle in 50.29 seconds Thursday and as part of the 4x100-meter relay that finished in 3:18.68 Friday.
Powers knows he’ll see more of his fellow competitors from the Junior Pan Pacific meet going forward, and he was grateful for the chance to build relationships with them and have fierce competition in the past week.
“It definitely helps. All of these guys are going to be (heading) to college too,” Powers said. “I’m always going to be racing with them or against them.”
The meet delayed Powers from arriving at the Ann Arbor, Mich., campus until Monday night, just hours before starting classes Tuesday morning. Multiple swimmers had to turn down the chance to compete in Hawaii because of their college schedules, making Powers relish the opportunity even more.
Now, the college freshman with his eyes toward ultimately qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics will focus on some long-term goals while beginning his studies in engineering. Powers said he hopes to break Michigan’s school records in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events in his first season, while boosting the Wolverines’ Big Ten and NCAA championship hopes.
The Junior Pan Pacific victories were the latest in a long line of accomplishments for Powers, who won six state titles between individual events and relays for North Hall.
Powers’ wins at Junior Pan Pacific were particularly meaningful to Deichert.
“It was one of my life’s great honors to work with him,” Deichert said.
Making the Olympics won’t be easy, but Deichert said the only swimmers that could be considered to have a better chance than Powers are those who have already competed in the Olympics. He doesn’t doubt his former pupil’s ability to reach his lofty goals.
“He’s going to get bigger. He’s going to get stronger,” Deichert said. “The chances of him making the Olympics are pretty high.”
Life is good for Powers. He’s winning races, just got back from Hawaii and is continuing academic and athletic careers he’s passionate about at a major Division I school. His latest experience in the pool only serves to further his hopes for the future.
“It puts me in a good position right now,” Powers said. “The more international experience I can get, the better you get prepared for it.”