Swimming in gold: UB swimmer Mason Miller reflects on successful season
Mason Miller and gold medals is like peanut butter and jelly – a perfect fit.
Starting his freshman year, sophomore swimmer Mason Miller has racked up gold medals in multiple events. For the whole 2017 season, Miller did not leave a single meet without taking first in at least one event.
Miller’s most recent campaign for gold came at the MAC tournament where he took first in six different events and was named Most Outstanding Swimmer at the meet – an accomplishment that isn’t lost on Miller.
“The three individual and three relay golds are definitely career highlights,” Miller said.
“I’m just happy to see what we can do next… I see room for improvement, building on that baseline and getting stronger. Definitely in the future there will be more accomplishments.”
Miller’s goal for the season was to qualify for the NCAA national meet, which he did not make this year. But Miller came closer this season with his top 50 times in the NCAA in both the 200-meter and 400-meter. These times are proof of his improvement from last season and how the program has helped him grow.
“I attribute all of my success to the team,” Miller said. “Most people don’t think of swimming as a team sport but I can’t do it without the guys here backing me up.”
That team mentality was infectious to Miller, who almost immediately adopted it. It has allowed him to leave a selfish part of himself behind in high school and really buy into the team.
Head coach Andy Bashor has noted a change in Miller’s character. He said Miller is more mature and there is an understanding the two of them built upon in the pool.
Bashor can sense when Miller is in “deep focus” and when his mind is somewhere else.
“One of my favorite things about Mason is if I can tell that Mason is in a rut, I can just give him a tap on the shoulder… and he will be focused right back up,” Bashor said.
Keeping Mason focused on the work is always a priority for Bashor. Even when Mason first arrived to UB, getting him focused was the goal. Once Miller had competed in a few meets, it became a non-issue, which helps make Bashor’s job easier and alleviates the pressure on his swimmers.
“If I put these ideas in his mind when he races, they are just going to slow him down,” Bashor said. “If I can get him to just clear his mind and only focus on the work, I know he can get it done.”
Now with his expert focus, Miller is able to stay calm at meets and is never easily flustered by other teams.
“At the MAC tournament and stuff like that, I am definitely pretty relaxed. I won't let the other teams get to me but they will do their stuff to try and bring down our mood. I just look at it as fuel for the fire.,” Miller said. “They are out there being cocky and stuff, and I just think let me show them what Buffalo can do.”
Senior swimmer Martin Leigh considers Miller’s consistency one of his best attributes.
“You know no matter how he is feeling that he is going to show up and race,” Leigh said. “It’s a quality I respect in my teammates. I find it hard to sometimes get ready for a race myself but there are some people like Mason who are just bred to race.”
Leigh met Miller when he first met with the program.
“He was a good kid, maybe slightly nerdy, but who isn’t on this team,” Leigh said.
At practice, Leigh always sees Miller “carrying an air of cheerfulness” with him. No matter how difficult the practice, Leigh can always rely on Miller being in a joyful mood. Miller always helps to keep the mood lighter, but his swimming helps to drive the team as well.
“Simply by the fact that he swims fast, it motivates the rest of the team to go faster,”
Now Miller has started getting ready for a new season, but with the same goal: qualify for the NCAA. And with his rapid improvement, Miller’s goal is closer than ever.
Thomas Zafonte is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.