A morning with MU swimmer Lisa Nathanson

Sunday, February 14, 2010 | 8:50 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — MU swimmer Lisa Nathanson is a woman of few words. She prefers to let her swimming do the talking.

Don’t let her silence fool you though, said Brian Hoffer, MU swimming coach.

“As quiet as she is, she’s a fierce competitor,” he said.

Hoffer describes Nathanson as a bright and sweet person with an incredible work ethic, a few of the reasons why the MU swimming team loves her. But, what truly separates her from the pack is her raw speed.

“She generates so much power so quickly, that’s why she was recruited out of high school,” he said. “She’s really coming into her own this year, and she still has two more years to go.”

On Saturday, Nathanson, 19, became the first MU athlete to win a medal at the Missouri Grand Prix. She swam her way to third place in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 26:28 seconds in the finals after a 26:06 finish in the morning prelims.

But there’s no time to rest. Nathanson came back to the pool Sunday for her final event of the weekend, the 100-meter freestyle.

Here's a look at Nathanson's morning Sunday:

7 a.m. — Nathanson wakes up and eats a breakfast consisting of cereal, yogurt and a peanut butter sandwich. She gets her bag ready and prepares to leave for the pool.

7:50 a.m. — On a particularly gloomy morning, she arrives at Mizzou Aquatic Center. Clad in a black Mizzou swimming jacket and her short hair pulled back in a ponytail, Nathanson, begins stretching. She takes off her sweats and gets ready for warm-ups.

7:55 a.m. — Nathanson joins a few MU teammates on the pool deck. It’s really not that early in the morning for them. With practices twice a day at 5:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. three times a week, this is nothing new.

7:58 a.m. — She jumps in the 50-meter pool for the first time and proceeds to do a couple laps, alternating between the backstroke, freestyle and using a kickboard.

8:55 a.m. — Nathanson wraps herself in an orange towel and goes with a teammate to the locker room near the front of the pool to change into her racing suit.

9:11 a.m. — She makes her way back to the MU team section, which stands out with a black and gold Mizzou banner hanging from the bleachers. A sizeable group of swimmers came to compete and support each other, though the same isn’t necessarily true of the spectator crowd. Compared to Saturday, the bleachers are nowhere near filled to capacity.

9:15 a.m. — Nathanson grabs a heat sheet (a schedule of the morning’s prelims) to check her event. A few of her teammates are joking around with coach Chris Peters, and Nathanson seems to watch them with an amused smirk on her face. She eyes the pool in front of her focused with her elbows resting on her legs.

9:37 a.m. — With her event minutes away, Nathanson strips off her clothing and walks to the pool deck. One glance at her makes it clear Hoffer wasn’t lying — Nathanson spends a lot of time building strength in the weight room.

9:39 a.m. — Mizzou swim cap on, she starts to wave her arms and loosen her legs. The women’s 100-meter freestyle has nine heats; Nathanson is in the seventh group. Blink and you could miss a heat — the event only takes about one minute per round. Swimmers are afforded no breaks between events. Once one heat ends, the next group of athletes are ready and waiting to dive in.

9:41 a.m. — Nathanson mounts the platform and waits for the official. The buzzer sounds and she’s off.

9:43 a.m. — After a swim of 59:66, Nathanson smiles as she looks up to the scoreboard. She qualified for the finals, which begin at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Nathanson makes her way to the dive pool to join teammates for cool-down laps. She appears more talkative and relaxed, perhaps because the pressure is off.

10:05 a.m. — She comes back to her belongings in the bleachers. After a long morning, Nathanson reveals that she will pull out from the finals tonight. Why?

“The Big 12 meet is only 10 days out, and I need a little time to recover,” she said. “We don’t take time off so I don’t want to get worn out.”

The Big 12 Championships will take place Feb. 24-27 in College Station, Texas.

10:20 a.m. — The school record holder in the women’s 50-yard freestyle packs her bag. With what appears to be fatigue setting in, it’s no surprise she is ready to leave for the day. What’s her afternoon schedule look like?

“I’ll probably look up other swimming results, get some homework done,” she said. “Just take it easy.”

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