There’s a razor-sharp focus about sprint swimmers like Corben Miles, a senior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High. Twenty seconds is not a lot of time, and for Miles, it’s the absolute longest he wants to swim the 50-yard freestyle in.
For such a competitor, having the ability to focus is imperative — especially when you have a lot going on in your life.
Last year alone, in his junior year at school, Miles committed to Georgia Tech for this coming fall and set the state record in the 50 freestyle with a 20:30 time. That was .08 seconds faster than the record he had set in the sectionals. Despite all the potential distractions, he’s setting new goals and trying to attain them as Acton-Boxborough gets off to a hot start.
“After [last season], before I even committed, I made a goal to try and break 20 [seconds] in the 50 free and then get the state record in the 100 free,” said Miles. “And from my times early in the season at Junior Nationals and at Seniors, I think I can get those times this year.”
Miles goes about his business with a quiet focus. He’s constantly zoned in, engaged, and he makes clear his experience and confidence. Once he hits the water, when age and experience wash away, he lets his form and precision make his point.
After making his verbal commitment last year, he’s not only avoided falling into complacency, but he’s also seemed to use the commitment to drive him.
Regardless of the venue, he says, be it a dual meet or Junior Nationals, he’s made it a priority to set both short- and long-term goals.
“Even in dual meets, I’m always psyching myself up,” he said. “I don’t usually listen to music during dual meets, but during big meets like sectionals I will and I’m always just in the zone when it comes to those meets — even if it’s against a weaker team that I don’t need as good of a time in. I still need to get into that zone.
“The tiny things matter. If my stroke is off just a little bit going into a flip turn, that can affect my whole race. So I really focus in on those little things.”
Torn between majoring in biomedical and mechanical engineering at Tech — both of which are nationally ranked programs — he has no time to let things slide in the classroom.
“For academics,’’ he said, “it’s one of the best schools in the nation, so I want to go in there prepared and not just fly through my senior year or junior year and just get decent grades. I want to learn in all my classes, not just fly by.”
Miles fielded offers from several schools for both swimming and lacrosse, his spring sport. But the commitment to Tech felt natural for the swimmer. On the heels of an impressive junior campaign, he made an unofficial visit to its Atlanta campus last spring, and decided that it would be the best fit for him.
With relocating there getting closer, he’s found nothing but internal affirmation in his decision.
“I did commit a little early, but the offers I was getting from other schools for either swimming or lacrosse, they weren’t as impressive as what Georgia Tech was offering me,’’ he said. “Tech has one of the best engineering programs in the nation, so that was definitely a key point for me.”
For a coach like Acton-Boxborough’s Jeff Johnson, a weapon like Miles can go a long way.
A swimmer can only get 12 points in a typical duel meet if he or she wins a pair of individual events. Miles not only participates in such events, but also on relay teams.
And then there’s the impact of his work ethic, said Johnson, which is a major motivator to his younger teammates.
“We have some goals that we set with them on certain things we’d like to see them do and challenge them,” said Johnson. “He’s very competitive, and if you set goals he works at it to get to it.
“It’s like having Tom Brady,’’ said Johnson. “You know what he’s going to do. It’s fun watching the kids feed off of that too. He works real hard in practice and other kids are doing the same thing too.”
Much like Brady, Miles has mastered the mental aspects of his sport.
Swimmers in sprint races have to fit a certain mold. Seldom is their time in the pool more than a minute, yielding no room for a slow start or mental lapses. To maintain that edge, a swimmer needs to stick to a high standard and above all else, avoid cruise control.
An official visit to watch Georgia Tech’s swimmers helped show him just how much room he has to grow.
“Their swim team is phenomenal,” Miles said. “We watched a preseason meet on my official visit and the guys were going faster than my times. . . . They’re just in Speedos, just swimming against themselves. And that really motivates me.
“I want to get in there and make a difference for them.”Logan Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.