At the urging of his parents, after their friends’ daughter drowned in a pool, Jimmy Veazey ’04 learned how to swim when he was just five years old.

“They wanted to make sure nothing like that happened to me,” Veazey said.

Little did they suspect that this concern for their son’s safety would spark in him a lifelong passion.

“I enjoyed it and committed to it 100 percent because I really liked the competitive aspect of swimming,” Veazey said. “I liked winning.”

A New Haven area native, Veazey started swimming year-round with a local club where, as a teenager, he began cultivating the most influential relationship of his swim career. No nonsense coach Gary Cavalier — who preached the virtues of hard work and personal responsibility — became Veazey’s greatest mentor and friend in swimming.

“Gary [Cavalier] knows me better than anyone. He could always tell if I was making excuses, and he cut right to the chase,” Veazey said. “He instilled in me the motivation and discipline to be a better swimmer. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

And without Veazey, Yale swimming would not be where it is today.

When it came time to look at colleges, Veazey’s decision to apply early to Yale was simple.

“I chose Yale because of the team,” Veazey said. “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a group of people closer and more dedicated to the sport of swimming in my life. It makes me appreciate and love the sport even more.”

Three years later, Veazey is a top Bulldog freestyler. And three weeks ago at the H-Y-P meet, he became the best 200 butterflyer in Yale history, having swum a school-record-setting 1:49.22.

“I realized I was in range of the record, and I wanted to get it done so that I could concentrate on swimming fast at Easterns [the conference meet],” Veazey said. “Getting it is a weight off my shoulders.”

He points to a new mental approach — “letting go of what I thought I knew and listening more to coach has given me a completely different mentality” — and focused summer training in New Haven as the reasons for such marked improvement this year.

Naturally, his dedication to improvement has not gone unnoticed by his coach.

“Last year, he qualified for U.S. Summer Senior Nationals, which really gave him a lot of confidence and took his vision to a higher level,” head coach Frank Keefe said.

After Veazey beat Southern Connecticut State’s Ben Michaelson — a Division II record-holder — in the 200 butterfly at the Nutmeg Invitational in December, Keefe realized this season could be special.

“That was the biggest meet of the season for him, before H-Y-P,” Keefe said. “His dedication over the summer paid off in beating Michaelson, and his work ethic has been solid since. He doesn’t back off.”

The significance of becoming a record-holder in one of the most storied collegiate swimming programs of all time is not lost on Veazey.

“Some of the most impressive swimmers in the world have gone through the program,” he said. “To be a part of that history is amazing. I feel honored.”

It is a history that motivates him and that he would like to see reclaimed in an Ivy League Championship before he graduates.

“Yale swimming is perhaps the best sport in the history of Yale, and we can get that back. I want to make people believe they can do it,” Veazey said.

Veazey leads by example both in the pool and in the weight room. “He has led through his hard work this season,” sprinter Adam Green ’06 said.

When he’s not logging yardage in the pool, Veazey keeps busy in the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, as junior manager of the Yale Cap and Gown Agency, following his beloved Boston Red Sox, and hanging with teammates in the house they share.

“He’s the glue that holds this house together,” teammate and housemate Cole Heggi ’04 said.

A political science major with aspirations of law school, his work ethic in the classroom is impressive.

“Jimmy’s [Veazey] hard work in the classroom is really inspiring. I wish I had a work ethic like his. Being a political science major really tests his endurance as a student, and Jimmy is able to conquer trying tasks day in and day out,” teammate and housemate Matt Bowman ’04 said.

Ahead is the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League Championship, where Veazey hopes for a top-three Yale finish and to achieve the personal goals he posted in his locker on the first day of practice.

“His steadfast commitment to succeed motivates me to try to swim at his level every day in practice and in competition,” teammate and housemate Jack Cooney ’04 said. “He lays the groundwork on which this team’s future is built. Jimmy Veazey is what every Yale swimmer aspires to be: a champion.”