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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats swimmer Smith feels at home in Arizona

Amy Webb
Amy Webb / Arizona Daily Wildcat Giles Smith swims against Wisconsin last November.

Giles Smith beamed as he leapt from the pool at the conclusion of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference Championships in February 2009. He had just slashed the National Independent high school swimming record with 19.74 in the 50 freestyle, becoming the first independent high school swimmer to breach the 20-second mark.

“It was a fun experience,” Smith said. “I can definitely say it was humbling, and to be honest, a bit of a curse. It put a lot of pressure on me coming into college and I felt like I had to carry my whole team. Despite that, it really meant a lot.”

Going into the 2009 school year, Smith stood out as one of the nation’s most highly sought-after swimming recruits and received scholarship offers from over 50 schools. Smith eventually chose to attend the University of Tennessee, where he initially struggled.

“The coaching staff really didn’t fit my personality that well,” Smith said. “The team wasn’t as close as we are here at Arizona. It wasn’t a family environment.”

In his disappointing freshman season, Smith was unable to drop time for the first time in his swimming career, despite being given All-American honors. Smith said he knew that he needed a different setting and decided to transfer.

At the end, it came down to a choice between Texas and Arizona.

Smith decided to transfer to Arizona but had to sit out the 2009-2010 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

“Here at the University of Arizona, there is a strong bond between the teammates,” Smith said. “It’s more than just swimming laps in a pool. That close family environment is key to being successful.”

Adamant to rebuild and become stronger, Smith trained all year with his old club team from Baltimore, coached by Scott Ward, who had earned a reputation for developing national and international level swimmers.

“I think that he can very well be an Olympic champion,” Ward said.

“There is a lot of work ahead of him, but with his work ethic, anything is possible.”

Last year, as a redshirt sophomore, Smith compiled impressive numbers and received five All-American honors. At the NCAA Division I Championships, Smith was part of the relay team that broke the American record in the 200 medley relay. He earned a national championship for his swimming in the butterfly portion of the medley.

“It was really special,” Smith said. “That was definitely the most impactful moment I’ve had in my career as an Arizona Wildcat because we were able to win a relay championship. It was the first one we’ve won since 2008. It meant a lot to me to see the jubilation of my teammates, coaches and of the overall program. We were able to show the nation that they have to watch out for the Wildcats for years to come.”

After the championships, Smith was invited to participate at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. He placed 8th at the finals in the 100 butterfly, recording a time of 52.67.

“In 2008, I didn’t even qualify for the Olympic Trials, so I have come a long way in just four years,” Smith said.

All signs now point to the Rio Olympics in 2016, where Smith hopes to qualify and compete again among the top swimmers in the world in what could be his last appearance in competitive swimming.

“If I don’t make the trials in 2016, that will most likely be the last competitive swimming I’ll do in my life,” Smith said. “I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy the time I have.”

“Giles is a great leader,” head coach Eric Hansen said. “He is very passionate about swimming. I expect to see all of his hard work pay off. He is an American record holder and the future looks bright for him.”

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