UB Bull Megan Burns finds passion on UB's swimming and diving team

Burns' last-minute choice to swim in college culminated in a 52-0 freshman year


Megan Burns wasn’t planning on swimming after high school.

She admits she was lazy. Her mom pushed her toward the pool. She was a talented swimmer – but she didn’t have motivation.

Burns, now a freshman on UB’s swimming and diving team with an undefeated season, planned on spending her summer before college outside the pool lifeguarding.

This doesn’t seem to match the profile of someone who now aspires to make it to the Olympics. But Burns found her stride at UB – she found her passion. Her decision to continue swimming after high school – a choice she almost didn’t make – has led her to an individual perfect 52-0 season. She’s on track to become one of the best players in program history, but there was a while when Burns was still in high school her ambition dwindled.

Burns needed her mother’s encouragement to continue swimming after high school. There were multiple times when Burns was ready to quit.

“It was just laziness. I didn’t care, I never had to work hard to get good grades or good results in the pool,” Burns said. “But for my first three years, I did – it just kind of happened. There was no particular reason why I wasn’t interested; I was just lazy. Yet, my mom nagged me to work hard every day. ”

Now there’s a different kind of Burns in the pool: In the 2015 Mid-American Conference championship, Burns took first place in both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle, culminating in her perfect 52-0 season.

But Burns wasn’t even sure she would commit on the first day.

The summer after graduating high school, Burns spent most of her time lifeguarding. Burns, who was content with being poolside for the summer, wanted to stop competitive swimming completely.

Burns said competitive swimming felt like a hassle beginning at 8 years old. She didn’t have many friends in the pool. Even as she grew older and became more acquainted with the other swimmers, she still lacked motivation to put in her best effort.

“I didn’t like swimming as much as I do now,” Burns said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to spend another four years in the sport. It was more of a job and I didn’t like going to practice. It took away from my free time. It was a lot more of a hassle than it was fun.”

Her parents, Jon and Kim Burns, said their daughter had contracted a severe case of “senioritis.”

“She didn’t really try senior year,” Kim said. “She didn’t do her homework, didn’t study … she didn’t really care. She wasn’t failing, but she wasn’t putting much effort in – during school or swimming.”

But she still excelled on her swim team at Rush Henrietta Sperry High School. Burns earned a spot on the All-Greater Rochester team and was named the team MVP. During her senior year, her team qualified for the state tournament and she won Sportsman of the Year.

Burns was planning to come to UB for nursing and despite her high school accolades, stay out of UB’s pool. But a summer visit with the swimming and diving team changed her opinion.

She stayed in scrubs but added a swimming cap and goggles to her college life.

During the summer, there was an open camp where she met many of her current teammates, as well as the swimming and diving head coach Andy Bashor. Burns said she instantly loved the girls and really enjoyed the coach’s practices because he made the sport fun – something that she hadn’t been used to.

“I didn’t start having fun until I met my friends here at UB,” Burns said. “My friends keep me interested in the sport. I love them all – they’re like my sisters.”

Burns is nationally ranked in the top eight for the 100-yard freestyle race and in the top 12 for the 50-yard freestyle among freshmen – the two races she primarily competes in, according to Bashor.

Burns said she prefers to swim the 100-yard races because “the 50 is too quick.”

“If I’m going to beat someone, I want it to be by a couple seconds, not by milliseconds,” Burns said.

Burns said her success felt great, mainly because she was finally satisfied with her results in the pool due to motivation and increased effort.

“I never tried very hard before, and never did as well as I wanted,” Burns said. “Now that I’ve seen my results at UB, I know that I can go farther. Ultimately, I want to make the Olympic trial in the 100- and 50-yard eestyle next year. More importantly, I want to win at the conference championship again and reclaim my titles.”

Burns’ mother said Bashor’s efforts have allowed her daughter to blossom into the swimmer who finished with an undefeated season. Burns led the team in both the 50 and 100 freestyle in her freshman campaign, finishing with 22.66 and 49.04 times, respectively. But Bashor said that she could have an even better sophomore campaign.

Bashor said that Burns will be a “young star” and she will continue to grow stronger and her training will carry over into the pool. Last season, Bashor said she nearly qualified for the highest level of NCAA Division-I swimming.

“She has the ability to make NCAA A-cut times. In the 100 free she missed it by about .016 of a second,” Bashor said. “The potential is there, but her getting to that next level depends on the way she approaches things this spring and summer, and she’s right there. She needs to keep progressing the way she has.”

Burns’ season has motivated her to be more than perfection among current swimmers. She wants to be the best swimmer in Buffalo history. She said she is determined to break the school time records for both the 50 and 100-yard races before she graduates.

“I will break records,” Burns said. “And I will try to be better than any swimmer before I graduate.”

Bobby McIntosh is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com