Yale men’s swimming team captain George Gleason ’01 was fast enough to earn himself the right to compete at the Sydney Olympic Games this past fall. Now he has to swim even faster if he wants to be competitive at the NCAA Championships, which kick off today at the Recreation Sports Center Natatorium in College Station, Texas.

Despite being an Olympian, this is the first time Gleason is competing at the NCAA Championships, and he knows he will have to swim lifetime best times just to have a chance at making the finals.

“I really don’t know what to expect,” Gleason said. “This is the third time we’ve shaved, and I normally don’t swim with this much rest, but I’ve been swimming really fast in warm-ups.”

Based on his best times of the season, Gleason is seeded 15th in the 200 individual medley, 21st in the 200 backstroke and 23rd in the 200 freestyle. Gleason said he would like to end up at least in the top 16 out of about 60 swimmers — which would qualify him for the finals.

“The competition is very intense — the difference between 10th and 30th will be within one second,” he said. “It’s going to be really close.”

Head coach Frank Keefe is hopeful that Gleason will be able to make the finals, but he knows it is not an easy task.

“He needs to swim within himself and try to get lifetime best times,” Keefe said. “But he’s competing against the top swimmers in the nation — if not the world.”

Keefe also noted that Gleason is without any of his teammates this time, though he does not think Gleason will have a problem getting psychologically ready.

“[Gleason] has been through this before, when he was at the Olympics, so it shouldn’t be any trouble for him to get pumped up,” he said.

Keefe credits Gleason and the other upperclassmen on the team for its unexpected success this season.

“We graduated a great group of seniors last year,” Keefe said. “But the leadership of the upperclassmen has been great. A lot of our success was due to the upperclassmen and the mentality they instilled in the freshmen — that you have to train 11 out of the 12 months of the year in this sport if you want to be successful.”

And, following the example set by the upperclassmen, a lot of this year’s freshmen have already began training for next year even though the season ended less than a month ago.

Gleason was also pleased with the team’s performance this year.

“We surprised a lot of people because we performed equally well to what we did last year, and that wasn’t the expectation,” Gleason said.

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