Alumni Spotlight: Emily Brunemann, Women's Swimming & Diving
Emily Brunemann

Feb. 2, 2012

For the first installment of our Alumni Spotlight series, recently caught up with former women's swimmer Emily Brunemann (2006-10). The former 2008 NCAA champion (1,650 freestyle) catches us up on training with Michigan man Jon Urbanchek, and her quest to make the country's roster for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. First the Block M, now USA Swimming. It's hard to find two better institutions to swim for.

Emily: It's been an incredible journey, and one I can honestly tell you that when I was younger, I didn't think I would be a part of. Jim Richardson saw something in me and gave me an opportunity to prove myself, and just fell in love with the school. I miss it so much. To be able to use those experiences as a student-athlete at Michigan to now being able to swim for the United States is incredible, and I will never forget that.

MGB: It's been two years since you graduated. Give us an update on what you've been up to since then?

Emily: Well, I graduated in 2010, and stayed that following summer. I competed at the Pan-Pacific Championships that summer, and placed third in the 10K, then I relocated to Fullerton, California, to train with FAST (Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team). Jon Urbanchek lives out there to coach, and I followed him. I've swam in a lot of World Cup races, including winning two of them in China last fall. This past summer was a little rough for me, but I've done pretty well since then.

MGB: You just recently got back from Brazil. Tell us about that experience.

Emily: Yeah, I just got back two days ago from Brazil. It was another stop on the World Cup circuit, and the first one of this year. It was probably the strongest group of women's open water swimmers that I have swam against since the World Championships in 2009. It was great competition to see where I was at, and I finished fifth. That's a good finish, but I'm never satisfied. I'm going to make some changes in my training from now until April when the U.S. Open Water Trials are and gain a little experience. That's the thing with open water. The more experience you get, the better you get. There are so many different scenarios, and as a swimmer, the more you get placed in, the better you'll be able to handle it. That's why the best open water swimmers are in their late 20s, early 30s. They've got the experience.

MGB: Obviously one of your big goals is to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Where do you stand with that?

Emily: I like where I am. I am training better now than I have ever trained before. I think there are some tactical things I can work on, but I am excited. There are about seven or eight Americans who can win, but honestly, it depends on whose day it is. There's a lot of chance, and a lot of things that can go right or wrong, so if I can control the things I can control, I'll feel confident two months from now at the trials.

MGB: Jim Richardson always talks about a swimmer's training cycle and how demanding it is. What's the training cycle like for an open-water swimmer like yourself?

Emily: It's a little bit different. The longest break I've had in the last three years has been three days. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to not swim, though I don't know what that would feel like. There are two things. The first is the seasons. Pool swimming typically goes from September to March, then from April to the beginning of August. For open water, the World Cup circuit goes from January to September, so there's a bit of an overlap. August is usually the month where swimmers get the longest break, but that's right in the middle of open water season. The second part is the actual training. At Michigan, we'd start out the year very gradual, build up, and peak in January, but with open water, you go hard all year long because the races are so much longer. You have to have endurance, because you're constantly training with long distances. There's no such thing as a gradual workout.

MGB: How did your experiences as a student-athlete at Michigan prepare you for where you are now?

Emily: Jim taught me so much. He would always say, "control the controllables." He taught me a lot about the psyche of a swimmer, and how to be confident in yourself and what you're doing. I can't thank Jim and Stefanie [Kerska] enough for what they taught me at the University of Michigan. I wish college swimming was eight years long instead of four years. I learned so much and got so much better, and that's one of the reasons I am still doing it today. Being at Michigan, you have to learn how to handle things. You're in school. You're away from home. You have to learn time management. All of those things molded me into the person I am today, and have allowed me to handle situations better than I would have if I weren't there. So much of what I am now is thanks to the University of Michigan, and I'll never forget that.