By MIKEY BARNES
“If I attend your school, I will be the best swimmer this program has ever had,” were some of the first words spoken from University of Mary Washington senior Alex Anderson to Head Swim Coach Abby Brethauer. Many more words have been exchanged since between Anderson and Brethauer throughout his illustrious swim career. They developed a swimmer and coach relationship with an abundance of mutual respect for one another.
Anderson, a chemistry major and a graduate from James Madison High School of Vienna, Virginia in 2006 has had quite the ride for a young collegiate athlete. Following high school, Anderson attempted to continue his academics at Northern Virginia Community College but was unable to find the motivation to go. With school no longer the main priority for Anderson, he took the opportunity to begin working, and for the next three years he worked numerous “strange jobs.”
According to Anderson, he worked “as a waiter, a clerk, a management position for a plant watering company and an apprentice.”
Though swimming was once a chore for a younger Alex Anderson, he soon realized that he missed the sport that once took over his life and decided it was best he returned back to school and pursue his love of swim once again.
After a three-year absence, Anderson returned to NVCC and joined a local club swim team that he liked. It was not long that he attended the community college and swam for the club team when the opportunity to swim at an even more competitive level presented itself. It was Brethauer and UMW that gave him that opportunity.
“UMW is close enough to home and far enough away. I also really like DIII because I do not like the idea of being paid to swim, and I do not want to be forced to do the sport like that of DI athletes. I, like most DIII athletes, do the sport because I love it, not for the scholarship,” said Anderson.
With the absence from schooling and swim, many would have thought coming into the university at the age of 23 would have separated Alex from his teammates, but according to both Anderson and Brethauer, that has not been the case.
Attending a DIII school worked out in Anderson’s favor, as he did not once lose a race in the Capital Athletic Conference, which includes both individual races and relays, showing that Anderson is not just good individually, but also as a teammate. On top of never losing a race in conference, Alex has been named the CAC Swimmer of the Year all four of his years at UMW. But his success has not been limited to conference play, as he is a four-time national champion, including in the 400 IM his sophomore year, 400 IM and 200 fly his junior year and the 200 fly his senior year. Anderson competed at the national level eight times, finishing in first four times and second the other four.
Anderson and Brethauer both attest his success to his dedication and focus.
“He eats right, he drinks right, he acts right on the weekend,” said Brethauer. “He has set a great example. It is so fun to coach him, but it is really nice because he makes all the right choices, which is no wonder he is such a good swimmer.”
Not only is he a hard-working athlete, Anderson is also one of the more humble guys you will meet, something that has not gone unnoticed by Brethauer.
“He has opened the door for other people to see the possibility, he’s a very humble guy, I agree he showed other people what the possibilities are. His personality has allowed him to fit in with his teammate, he doesn’t think any different of himself and doesn’t act like he is the best swimmer,” said Brethauer.
When asked how it feels to be regarded as one of the best swimmers in DIII history, Anderson showed his humbleness.
“It just happened, I just happened to be the best at the time. What I feel the best about is that I help raised the bar for DIII schools. A lot of kids don’t feel that DIII is that great, I helped raise the bar,” said Anderson. “A lot of pressure for athletes to go to DI schools, where DIII schools are just as great.”
His collegiate swim career may have come to an end at nationals, but Anderson is not ready to step out of the pool for good. Alex plans to spend the next months training for the Olympic trials. He said his 50 meter freestyle time is three seconds faster than the required time. Alex also plans to come back next season and help the UMW team out, an idea that Brethauer said she was not opposed to. Brethauer expressed interest in having Anderson back, as she referred to him as a “once in a career type of kid.”