Houston County swimmer marking time

WARNER ROBINS — The clock was never Brett Niemantsverdriet’s friend.

The Houston County junior remembers struggling to finish tests on multiplication tables — 100 problems in five minutes — while in elementary school. He always lost valuable seconds at the beginning because it took so long to write his last name.

But these days, Niemantsverdriet is taking his revenge on time. The Telegraph’s All Middle Georgia swimmer of the year uses less and less of it to get from point A to point B.

“Every year, I’m dropping time. I’m constantly improving,” Niemantsverdriet said. “This year, I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult, but I’m having to train harder. When you get to (improvement in) 100ths and 10ths of a second, you have to be happy with that.”

During the high school swim season, Niemantsverdriet beat state qualifying times in six individual events and as part of all three relays. At the GHSA Class AAAAA state meet in mid-February, Niemantsverdriet finished eighth in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. He now has five career top eight finishes to his credit.

In addition, the Houston County boys 200-medley, and 400-freestyle relay teams, featuring Niemantsverdriet, Aaron Meece, Sean Preston and Nick Wilhelm, were both top 16 finishers after preliminaries.

Poor weather forced rescheduling of the swim finals and some of his teammates couldn’t participate because of conflicts. But Niemantsverdriet couldn’t pass on a chance to follow former teammate Mark Weber’s 2009 50-free state title with one of his own.

“I felt that was a race I could have won,” he said. “I was feeling pretty confident with that event.”

A lot can happen in a 50-yard race, most of it bad. Niemantsverdriet said he was never comfortable on the starting block. He hit the pool at too steep an angle so that he “basically went scuba diving ... After that, it’s pretty much done.”

Known to teammates and rivals as “N-plus 15” (which was also his father Steve’s call name in the Air Force), Niemantsverdriet owns 11 individual senior boys records with his club team, the Warner Robins Aquanauts. He holds five more as a member of various relay teams.

During peak training, Niemantsverdriet swims about 45,000 yards — or 25 miles — a week and “swims them hard,” according to Aquanauts coach Wes Hamborg. But Niemantsverdriet is no automaton.

“He’s a fun guy,” said Aquanauts teammate Erik Hanson, who also swims for Warner Robins. “He’s kind of laid back as a competitor.”

That means Niemantsverdriet (the name translates roughly into “no one is sad”) doesn’t talk trash or otherwise diminish the accomplishments of his competitors. After all, they’re only human. His real beef is with time.