Auburn's Owens Making a Splash with Standout Season
Feb. 1, 2012
By Mae Margaret Davis, Auburn Media Relations
AUBURN, Ala. -- It's 4:55 a.m.
While most Auburn University students are still asleep, Kyle Owens' alarm is sounding, and the junior biomedical sciences major is beginning a busy day that will last more than 15 hours.
A member of the Auburn men's swimming team, Owens has grown used to long days and has his routine down to a science. As the tall and thin, albeit strong and muscular, 21-year-old goes through the laundry list of what his typical day is like, it is clear that with minimal time for breaks between his aquatic training and educational training, time management is of the utmost importance.
"It's a busy lifestyle," Owens said. "It takes some time, but my junior year in high school I started doing it, but just twice a week, and it was nowhere near as intense as this is. The key to it is you can't think about it. You can't get stressed about it. It is what it is. You just have to do it."
For the past two years, Owens has been a member of a swim team with a storied history. The Tigers have won the men's SEC Championship for the past 15-consecutive years, and Owens has been a part of that tradition of excellence.
Just a sophomore last season, Owens placed second in the 200-yard backstroke to keep Auburn in the hunt for the SEC title. He earned a career-best time of 1:40.36 in the race and helped give the Tigers enough momentum heading down the stretch to overcome Florida.
While Owens made substantial progress in just his second year as a collegiate swimmer, he held out hope that his first season as an upperclassman would bring better times and higher finishes. So far, those hopes have been fulfilled.
"It kind of has been a break-out season," Owens said. "Coming in my freshman year, (the coaches) always said that junior year is when you get really good...This year, every single meet was better than the one the year before that. Comparatively, my times have been better and better all year."
Owens placed ninth at the NCAA Championships last season in the 200 backstroke, helping lead Auburn to a sixth-place finish, but the Johnson City, Tenn., native was hungry for more.
Eager to begin the season he expected to be his best yet, Owens said he wasn't skeptical about his expectations for himself and knew that all the hard work and preparation would pay off.
"With (associate head coach) Frank (Bradley) and (head coach) Brett (Hawke) as our coaches, we train so hard," Owens said. "You don't want to say `Oh, I know I'm going to be that good,' but with their training and their coaching, you kind of expect to be that good.
"You come to Auburn to get the best coaching, and it's apparent when you see us race in the water every day. I don't know if I'd say I knew I was going to be faster, but I kind of expected that just because of our training."
Owens is living up to expectations. Heading into the SEC Championships in two weeks (Feb. 15-18 in Knoxville, Tenn.), he currently owns the top times in the SEC this season in the 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley.
Hawke recognizes Owens' assets that have helped lead him toward an outstanding junior year and knew the kinds of contributions the young upperclassman would make to the program.
"He's just learned to be confident in his abilities again," Hawke said. "He's grown. He's matured as a person. He's getting stronger, and he's becoming more of a man so he's really putting himself into that mix of guys that compete at the real top level. Really, it's just a confidence thing. He's so confident in his abilities and his training and it's really showing up in his racing."
The enthusiasm Owens has for the sport will carry him throughout a grueling season. This is apparent as the young man lights up when asked about swimming for his university. After taking recruiting trips all over the country, Owens said it was Auburn's lack of putting on airs that attracted him the most.
"When I showed up here, the first night of our recruiting trip I was like, `I don't know if I want to come here,'" Owens admitted. "But, by the end of it, I felt like I was part of the pack already. That's a huge selling point. I think Auburn's the best at doing that. They don't really try and give you a show."
While Owens may not have been sold on a show, Auburn fans can expect to get one from Owens going into the remainder of the 2011-12 season, and he will be happy to provide it.
The sparkle in his eye returned as he commented on how much he loved the support the team receives from the Auburn family, going as far as to compare his sport to, of all things, football.
"It feels like swimming's actually a big sport here," Owens said with a grin. "You can't really get that feeling at any other program. We're such a storied program. You walk around on campus with a swimming shirt and people are like `Whoa, you're a swimmer!' It's almost up there with football, and that never happens anywhere else... It's awesome."
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