Brandon Warren can go the distance.
The distance of 200 metres, 400 metres and 1500 metres, to be exact.
“The [distance freestyles] are pretty difficult, sometimes I hate my life,” joked Warren. “But that’s my thing.”
But Warren didn’t always want to be a swimmer.
He hated it when he first started, quitting early on, but when he was nine years old he competed in a nine-to-10-year-old race, won the backstroke, and didn’t stop swimming.
“It was like ‘Oh, I’m actually kind of good at this,’ and from there on it was something I always enjoyed doing.”
Reaching the age of 12, he started to get competitive. Joining the Western Valley Swim team in his hometown of Plaster Rock, N.B., he practiced three times a week and competed.
The community of just over 1,100 didn’t come with a pool and so Warren would leave class early and meet his parents, and they would drive an hour to Woodstock.
This made his nights long to catch up on homework and readings.
“It was a lot of travel, and it was hard sometimes,” said Warren.
For four years his parents would drive him to practices and games and then head home, with another hour’s drive ahead of them. When he was 16, he started driving himself, but still had to leave school earlier.
“That was kind of a big thing for [my parents] to take on,” he said. “They definitely enjoy their time now, but they don’t regret it at all. They said because it was something I enjoyed doing, so I am really thankful they stepped up and did that.”
Warren is now a third-year on the Varsity Reds men’s swim team. He said he has enjoyed the transition from club to varsity level, and loves having a pool in his backyard.
After contacting head coach Robin Ferdinand going into his first year, he tried out, made the team and has evolved immensely over his time with the V-Reds. But he definitely notices a difference in the competition level.
“It’s not like the club level where they’re just decent swimmers,” he said. “[Here], everyone is a good swimmer, everyone is here for a reason and everyone is really, really competitive.”
He also said it is much more specialized.
“At the club level it’s a multitude of events; here, you specialize,” said Warren. “I did every event in club, but now I’m a distance swimmer. Those are my events and that’s what I do.”
Warren’s season is compacted with intense practices, meets and workouts. He practices Monday, Wednesday and Friday – twice a day from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. – and Tuesdays and Thursdays for and hour and a half, with his weekend only seeing a Sunday practice for an hour and a half. A workout scheduled from strength and conditioning coach Ken Morrison is sprinkled throughout the week, depending on where they are in the season.
Before major events they taper off and focus on the quality of the training vs. the quantity.
“You’ll focus on doing everything right, but you’ll get lots of rest, where usually it’s not as much rest,” he said. “So your body is much more rested for those meets, which makes it easier to swim faster.”
The training is paying off as Warren has taken almost a full minute off of his 1500 m freestyle time. He attributes his growth to coach Ferdinand.
“He’s the ultimate coachable athlete,” she said. “He had never even swam the 1500 m, and he’s obviously a distance swimmer because he’s a distance athlete . . . I think the first time he did it his goal was to be under 19 minutes, and now he’s already down to 16:45, which is getting to be very competitive.”
The most recent competition was the Atlantic University Sport qualifiers in St. John’s, N.L.
Warren made the A finals in all his events – finishing top eight in the 200 m, 400 m and 1500 m – but missed the Canadian Interuniversity Sport league (CIS) qualifying times.
“For me personally, it wasn’t the best meet, but I wasn’t disappointed with it at all. I really enjoyed the experience and had never been to Newfoundland before.”
Only in his third year, Warren still has two years of eligibility in the CIS, but he says he is hoping to graduate next year and see where to go from there.
He said he plans to keep swimming recreationally after graduation, and coaching, but isn’t closing any doors if the opportunity arises.
“I plan on pursuing physiotherapy, so maybe, if it’s in the cards, but we’ll see,” he said. “[Swimming] became a big part of my life, because you train so much, and you put so much time and effort into it, that it just becomes a part of your life; it’s what made me into the person I am today.”