Benjamin Gunn Will Join Teammates at US Olympic Trials
June 5, 2008
Among the contingent of Air Force swimmers competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month is Benjamin Gunn. Joining rising seniors Bryan Avery and Justin Day, along with 2007 graduates Chris Knaute and Paul Parmenter, Gunn is the youngest of the group of Falcons who will participate in this year's Trials. Yet the rising sophomore has already accomplished a great deal in just one year at the Academy.
An all-conference performer in both the 100 and 200 butterfly, Gunn ranks among the Falcons' top five performers in those events and among the top 10 in both the 100 and 200 backstroke. He then earned an Olympic Trial qualifying time in the 100 butterfly at the All-America Long Course Championships in Austin, Texas, back in March. His achievements thus far are impressive for a swimmer who was not necessarily a top-notch recruit entering the Academy.
"We didn't realize what a great athlete we were getting when we recruited Ben," said Air Force head coach Rob Clayton. "The times that Ben had posted in high school were solid, but not outstanding. However, we have no way to accurately measure the `heart' of an athlete and that is where Ben stands out from so many. He possesses such a tremendous competitive spirit. He hates to lose. When it's time to race, he elevates his performance tremendously."
"I've seen guys come in as freshmen who were very fast already, and I've seen guys improve tremendously over a few years, but Ben has done something that I've never seen at the Air Force Academy," continued Clayton. "In one year, he has gone from a mid-level recruit to one of the top swimmers in the Mountain West Conference."
Gunn's improvement has been borne from both his individual focus and team support, both necessities in a rigorous environment such as the Academy. While being a freshman at a service academy can be challenging, it has also provided Gunn with the opportunity to direct his focus on both school and swimming. His teammates have also made an impact on his improvement, both by providing a secure family atmosphere and by helping spark his competitive fire.
"I've pretty much doubled the time that I train every week," said Gunn. "Being amongst a group of guys that are all training at the same level, that are all striving to do the same things, it has pushed me to do more. If you're swimming with a bunch of people who don't really care, it's hard to step it up. [The team has] really helped my training here."
While the entire team has provided motivation for Gunn, one swimmer in particular has provided him with extra inspiration. Avery, next year's team captain and fellow competitor in the butterfly, has been a great role model in Gunn's first year at the Academy.
"All the guys train hard," said Gunn. "But, obviously, Bryan, [swimming the butterfly], I look up to. He works hard every single day and he's just a monster in practice. It's something I look forward to, swimming next to him."
Avery's leadership obviously impacted Gunn in a positive way at the Long Course Championships. Following a Trial-qualifying performance by Avery in the 100 fly, Gunn came back in the time trials of the event to post his own qualifying mark. Now the two of them, along with breaststroker Day, will get the opportunity to compete on the nation's biggest stage at the Olympic Trials, preparing them for a successful season in 2008-09.
"This is an incredible opportunity for all three of our current Falcons swimmers--Ben, Bryan and Justin," said Clayton. "Not only do they get to race some of the top swimmers in the country, but they have been given the time to train and really prepare for excellence at the Olympic Trials. They will come back and be ready for a fabulous NCAA season next year."
With three more years of collegiate competition remaining, Gunn still has much to achieve, and a great deal of time in which to do it. Close to a conference title in the 200 fly this past season, Gunn is merely focused on improving in the next several seasons, both individually and as a team. While the Falcons saw some success at this year's conference meet, the team is looking for even greater things next season.
In the long term, Gunn's goals are certainly aided by his decision to attend the Academy. An aspiring pilot, he wanted to attend a prestigious academic school with a Division I swimming program. All of the things Gunn was looking for can be found at Air Force. Furthermore, Gunn may still be able to continue his swimming career when he is done at the Academy. Like recent graduates Knaute and Parmenter, Gunn would like to get a shot at competing in the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) after graduation.
Gunn, who will use this summer to train and compete, will come closer to achieving his goals as he competes at the Trials along with his teammates. For more information on the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will take place June 29-July 6 in Omaha, Neb., visit www.usaswimming.org.