By Gaby Moran
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The 2012 season means more to University of Texas swimmers than most -- with the 2012 London Olympics in July, many of head coach Eddie Reese's student-athletes are preparing to compete at the United States Olympic Trials in June.
And senior Jackson Wilcox plans to make a splash in the swimming world.
Originally from Nashville, Tenn., Longhorn men's swimming coaches Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik recruited Wilcox, the four-time Tennessee state champion in the 200m and 500m freestyle events, in Spring, 2008.
"Since high school, I am better in every way," Wilcox said. "My times are dramatically better and my overall mentality and physicality with this sport has definitely improved."
Before he came to Austin, however, Wilcox qualified to compete in the United States Olympic Trials for the 2008 Olympics, though he did not qualify to compete in Beijing.
"It was definitely an eye-opening experience," Wilcox said. "It was the first time I got to swim with competition like that. It was great for me to transition from high school swimming into collegiate swimming."
Although Wilcox did not make it to the biggest sporting stage in the world, he made his way to Austin to continue on his swimming career. Wilcox had a remarkable freshman season and went on to place fifth in the 1650 freestyle, seventh in the 500 freestyle and 18th in the 200 freestyle at the NCAA Championships.
"Team-menship and the legacy of the coaching staff are unparalleled [at Texas]," Wilcox said. "In my opinion, they are two of the best coaches on the planet. They complement each other really well and are super honest. They know not everyone is perfect and are willing to work with us and figure out what is best for us as swimmers."
Finding a real passion and love for the 1650 freestyle event, also known as the 1-mile event, Wilcox was able to improve and as a sophomore placed third at the NCAA Championships in the event.
"I was a middle distance swimmer coming out of high school, but when I started swimming the mile my freshmen year, I had a lot of success with it and have been doing it ever since," Wilcox said.
The United States National Championships were held during his sophomore season, and Wilcox made a name for himself at this meet by placing first in the 1500m freestyle. This feat allowed him to go compete in the FINA World Championships -- against the world's best swimmers where he placed 12th overall.
"I live by doing better than last year with my swimmers," Reese said. "Whatever it was."
Now going into his final collegiate season, Wilcox is training and preparing for his best season yet. Named captain of the Texas' Men's Swimming team, he proves his leadership at every practice, pushing himself and his teammates to do their best.
"He is unsurpassed," Reese said. "He is a killer in workout and in the water. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever had."
At the Longhorns' most recent meet, the Texas Invitational, the men's team placed first over the University of Arizona and University of Southern California, two of the top swim teams in the country. Wilcox was a big part of the success by placing first in the 1650m freestyle event with a time of 14:52.55, just one second less than the NCAA automatic qualifying time for this year's meet.
"My expectations for myself are high this year and my team expectations are even higher than that," Wilcox said.
One of his top competitors is fellow Longhorn swimmer, Michael McBroom. McBroom is one year younger than Wilcox but won the 1650 freestyle at the NCAA Championships in 2011. They are competitors but also valued training companions.
"It is nice to have the returning individual champion to train with this year," Wilcox said. "It lets both of us know what we are going to be up against when it comes to the end of the year. He is an incredibly hard worker and we work really well together. We are both super competitive but at the same time we are best friends."
Reese knows talent when he sees it. After all, he was the head coach for the United States men's swimming team for three different Olympics -- 1992, 2004 and 2008 -- and the assistant coach for the U.S. in 1988, 1996 and 2002.
Wilcox, and every other swimmer at Texas, has been fortunate to have him as their coach to train and prepare them for the Trials.
"I think he is going to be one of the real good surprises at Trials," Reese said.
Wilcox has three months until the NCAA Championships in Washington and three more months after that until the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. He plans on competing in the 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle events.
"Training in itself isn't particularly different," Wilcox said. "But when the one-year gap starts turning into the several months gap, then naturally things are going to get amped up and turned on."