Athlete of the Week: NMB’s Bryan avoids making waves

nmbswim-bryanzonesEveryone in the state knows Mason Bryan as one of South Carolina’s elite swimmers … with the possible exception of Mason Bryan himself. Perhaps that explains his rapid rise to the top of the junior ranks.

Bryan, the defending Class 3A state champion in the 100-meter backstroke and a multiple state and regional winner for Coastal Aquatic Club, was selected to represent the South Carolina in the Southern Zone Meet in San Antonio, Texas. He was one of eight males selected to compete for the state.

“I wouldn’t say it was exclusive because they let me go,” joked Bryan, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week for his strong showing in San Antonio. “I had been wanting to go since I was a kid but I had no idea how much fun it would be. I had an amazing time.”

Bryan’s modesty prevents a mention of his high finishes against the top swimmers in the Southeast – fourth place in the 400 Medley Relay, seventh in the 200 Medley Relay, and 18th in his main event, the 100 Backstroke. He also placed 21st in the 200 Butterfly, 24th in the 400 Individual Medley, 39th in the 100 Butterfly, and 44th in the 200 Freestyle.

But downplaying his abilities has been a part of his game since he first started swimming competitively in the sixth grade, years behind his fellow competitors. It didn’t take him long to close the gap then go on to lap his peers en route to a SCHSL state title in the 100 back last season as a sophomore.

“I try not to think about where I place because it definitely gets your ego up,” he said. “I don’t want to get a cocky and slack off so I try to keep from talking about it and just try to focus on what I need to do to get better. I just look at it like I’m racing against the clock.”

That humble approach is paying off handsomely for Bryan as he enters his junior season with a chance to repeat – and perhaps even three-peat – as a state champion. That’s his goal, of course, but Bryan is less concerned with besting the field than bringing out the best in himself.

“The first year I qualified for states I finished like 48th out of 50 kids, but I was just happy to get there. I try to keep that same approach, not to worry about whether I’m first or 48th and just try to do my personal best, so I’m more focused on my time than my place.”

Bryan does admit to having his eye on the state record in the 100 back, which is certainly within his reach. But, true to his strategy designed to prevent him fro getting too comfortable with his accomplishments, Bryan prefers to downplay his chances of another successful season in the pool.

“I’ve had some practice times that are within 2 seconds of the state record, so it’s an attainable goal,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve slacked off a lot this summer. I worked two jobs so I really haven’t been able to put in as much time in the pool as I should. I’ve still got a long way to go.”

Given the way Bryan likes to play it low key, it sounds like he and the Chiefs could be in for another big season when they open the season Aug. 23.

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