Jan. 18, 2007
Confident, not cocky.
Let's take inventory.
Double digits in All-American honors, three-time SEC Champion, SEC record holder, World University Games Silver Medalist, Goodwill Games Bronze Medalist, a spot on the 2007 U.S. Pan American Games roster and CSCAA Academic All-American and a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
With a résumé like that, an athlete should be issued a license to be cocky...some kind of certificate or badge that says it's OK.
But still, senior swimmer Adrienne Binder is just confident, not cocky. Her walk is confident, her talk is confident, even her handshake is confident. There isn't a hint of pretension within a 100-mile radius of the Santa Barbara, Calif. native, just a comfortable aura of confidence.
And apparently, a confident, yet surprisingly modest attitude is all Binder ever needed to achieve astonishing success.
Binder hails from a close-knit family more than 2,000 miles away. She spent her younger years following the act of her older sister Alexis, a former swimmer for the University of Southern California and a competitor in the 1999 U.S. Pan American Games.
"I realized I loved this sport because (Alexis) really kept me in it when I was younger," Binder said. "I was always chasing her in the water and trying to beat her times."
Good, old-fashioned sibling rivalry gave Binder the edge she needed to develop into a national contender as a distance freestyle swimmer. She is currently ranked 13th in the world in the 1500m free, 16th in both the 800m free and 400m IM, and 20th in the 400m free. Since she began her tenure at Auburn, Binder has been a part of NCAA Championship teams both her freshman year and last year as a junior.
"It's the most amazing feeling in the world," Binder said of last year's NCAA Championship. "I can't even describe the feeling. You've worked so hard for something for so long and somehow you pull it off. Everything just came together at the right moment."
Binder knows that such success doesn't come without a price, but she and her team are more than willing to pay up.
Rumors have spread on campus that the swim team endures the toughest strength and conditioning workouts of any sport at Auburn. Binder promptly confirms the rumors as true, but doesn't complain.
"We work our butts off," she said, "but that's how you win championships, I guess. You have to be willing to do this and you're going to put everything on the line if you want a chance to contend for a national championship."
In fact, when Binder visited Auburn on her recruiting trip, she had a chance to watch the team do its infamous circuit, and her response to observing a team of athletes in sheer agony seemed rather unorthodox.
"I saw it and I was in awe," she said. "I was like, `I want to do that.' It has a lot to do with bonding and coming together as a team. You see people falling and breaking down and their teammates are there to bring them back up. It's something unique to our program that makes Auburn pretty special."
The members of the Auburn swim team know they're good. After a stroll through the James E. Martin Aquatics Center, it's undeniable. Dozens of championship banners hang from the ceiling, and the place has played host to two NCAA Championships as well as two SEC Championships. But the Tigers know they're not invincible. If anything, they enter each meet with a big, red bull's-eye on their backs.
"There are a lot of teams out there that want to end Auburn's reign," Binder said. "We're not going to walk into any meet thinking it's in the bag. We know we're going to have to work really hard for what we want and we're always ready to go in and give it 110 percent."
Binder expects nothing less for her final meets, and not just for herself or her team, but for head coach David Marsh who plans to leave Auburn after leading the Tigers to 10 total NCAA Championships during his 16-year tenure.
"It's sad," Binder said. "It's the end of an era, but I feel very fortunate that it's my senior year that he's going out on. I just hope that we can make it a very special year for him and cap off his career at Auburn."
Binder hopes to cap off her own career as well. After this summer, a stellar swimming career will write its conclusion as Binder applies to graduate school and moves on from swimming altogether. It might seem an abrupt end to a flourishing career, but she's accomplished more in 21 short years than most athletes do in their lifetime.
"I'm just ready to start a new chapter in my life," she said. "I'm ready to be a student without the athletics on the side and start something new."
But it doesn't matter. Adrienne Binder has left her mark. Her accomplishments and her attitude speak for themselves. She's an athlete Auburn should be proud to call its own.
And that confidence...it will surely take this unassuming young lady wherever it is she wants to go.