COLUMBIA — Mary Descenza is, in her words, “weird.” In and out of the water, the U.S. National Team swimmer is a bundle of energy, arms and flailing legs.
“As my coach said, I have a lot of moving parts,” Descenza said. “I’m kind of all over the place.”
The exuberant butterflyer, though, has a focus befitting a swimmer in her seventh year on the National Team.
“You usually see me around the pool deck laughing and kind of just farting around, doing my thing,” said Descenza, a member of the Athens Bulldog Swim Club in Georgia. “But I always go in kind of serious, have some goals in mind. Just kind of want to go around the best times.”
Descenza arrived in Columbia for the Missouri Grand Prix this weekend leading the Toyota Grand Prix series in points. The Missouri Grand Prix marks the third of eight meets in the Grand Prix series, and the winner receives a $20,000 prize.
“I don’t keep track of that stuff,” Descenza said. “I do it because I love it, not to look at points and scoreboards. I mean, yeah, $20,000 is nice, but I just enjoy the racing and seeing my friends at all these meets.”
Descenza was at her best Saturday, winning the 200-meter butterfly and placing third in the 200-meter backstroke. She was the only swimmer of either gender to compete in the top heat of both events, which occur back-to-back in the meet’s schedule.
Descenza had a tougher time at the Missouri Grand Prix in 2007. Though she won the 200-back, Descenza placed third in the 100-meter backstroke, the 50-meter butterfly and the 200-fly, and did not medal in four other events.
“It was a little bit more difficult,” Descenza said. “I just didn’t swim as fast, I don’t know why. Everyone has up and down years. I’m really pleased with how I’m doing this year, so I hope I keep on staying up and swimming fast.”
Descenza is spending her time now training for the Olympics, doing butterfly sets and “getting my (butt) kicked in the weight room and the pool as always.” She said this weekend, with a fast group of swimmers and a morning finals setup she’s not used to, would be good training.
“For meets like this, I get to swim two events per day, so it really tests your endurance and strength,” Descenza said. “It’s just good training for me and prepares me for when I get to swim just one event a day, so it’ll be that much easier.”