Three days a week, UC senior Josh Schneider rolls out of bed at 5:15 in the morning in order to be in the swimming pool by 6:00am.
"I dread it every time, but you have to have that internal drive because you know your competitors are out there doing the same thing," Schneider told me. "There's no way around it. If there was, nobody would be doing it. Every morning, you wake up and question why you're doing what you're doing. But this past week makes everything well worth it."
Last week at the BIG EAST Swimming and Diving championships in Pittsburgh, Schneider won all three events he entered (50 free, 100 free, 100 fly), setting UC, meet, and pool records in each event while being named the BIG EAST Men's Swimmer of the Year for the second consecutive time.
"He is tremendously gifted," said UC swimming coach Monty Hopkins. "Genetics certainly play a part. He is an extremely athletic man. He's maybe 6'3" or 6'4", probably about 210 pounds, very muscular and lean, and extremely athletic. But talent can only get you so far. To go beyond that you have to draw on every resource that you can, and much to Josh's credit, he is very serious about improving the little points. He'll do the extra work in the pool on technique. He'll do the extra work in the weight room. He'll sit and watch video of his swimming looking for one little thing that will help him go faster."
Josh's best event is the 50 freestyle and last week's time of 19.08 is tied with
"I wasn't fully rested so I have a lot more to give," Josh said. "Also, some pools are known to be fast and the
The 7-time BIG EAST champion will square off against
"The emphasis all year has been on the NCAA Championship and beyond, and while he had some great swims last weekend, we're hoping that there's more to come," Coach Hopkins said.
"Putting up those good times is going to give me a good seed in the NCAA's and it's a great confidence booster going into them," Schneider said. "If I come away with a win in the NCAA's, it could open a lot of doors for me in terms of sponsors like Speedo or Tyr or any sort of companies that would want to sponsor me."
Schneider is seeking financial support to help him pursue his goal of qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in
"I'm actually moving down to
"As much as he's improved, if he can see that next little bump in his ability, he's going to be a player on the national team level and I hope that he does achieve that dream," Coach Hopkins said. "It's kind of like catching a shooting star, and if you can't dream about it you're probably not going to make it. So he dreams about it, and thinks about it, and is working towards it - which is the key - and he's got a real shot of being an Olympian."
Unlike most elite swimmers, Schneider competed in a wide variety of sports in high school, setting
"After my freshman year at UC, I talked to my coach and said, 'I only have one more year of swimming left in me and then I'm going to go back and play football,' Josh said with a laugh. "I stuck it out because I realized that if I'm going to do anything big, it's going to be in the sport of swimming."
"He probably could have played football," Coach Hopkins told me. "He's a big, strong, fast guy. But he can be a national champion swimmer."
And while swimming doesn't garner the attention that football does, Schneider loves its simplicity.
"It's pure," Josh said. "You have no one to blame if you do something bad. If you don't perform up to expectations you have to look at yourself in the mirror. You can't blame anything on the refs because it's all based on time. It's a reflection of what you put into it."
And how early you're willing to wake up.
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