Fire on the water
GAINESVILLE — Her head tucked, knees and hips bent.
Frozen on the block, waiting for the horn to set her free.
The moment it sounds—she's gone.
Florida's Hannah Burns was off to the races and wouldn't be denied in the 200-meter breaststroke during Saturday's meet against Florida State.
Burns took first place (2:41.11) in the heat, helping the Gators sweep the Seminoles at home for a second straight season.
Four months into her first season, the Lake City native has made herself known through her actions in and out of the pool.
She may be one of the youngest on the squad, but she continues to set an example for everyone — embodying exactly what it means to be a Florida Gator.
Dedication. Honor. Integrity.
Freshmen aren't typically revered by their older teammates.
But then again, she's not your average freshman.
"I don't think in 19 years of coaching I've had a [freshman] student like her," Florida assistant coach Martyn Wilby said. "She's got her act together. Her time management skills are amazing. She's incredibly mature for her age. I think that's a credit to her parents and coaches (Mary Kay and Jamie Lewis).They've prepared her very well for college."
Burns — a scholastic All-American at Columbia — is as good as any other student-athlete at balancing her studies with her hectic swimming life.
With the season and her first semester beginning weeks apart, she admits the transition from high school to college wasn't too difficult but wasn't a cakewalk either.
"The school part was kinda hard," Burns said. "Just getting used to the schedule and stuff. But the swim part was not as bad because I'm used to swimming on the club team."
Burns credits the Gator Swim Club, which she joined in the sixth grade, for her development and discipline as a competitive swimmer.
Many years of back-and-forth drives — bright and early — have truly paid off for the five-time Florida state high school champion.
She's fit into the Gator family almost seamlessly.
And her first year has already brought several good memories, including being honored as SEC's Female Freshman of the Week back in November.
"That's one of the biggest accomplishments for sure," she said. "It was a little bit of a surprise."
Burns hopes to finish off an impressive campaign with a strong showing at the SEC Championships next month and the NCAAs in March.
Florida's coaches have already regarded her as the future of the program.
"Hannah is local and has tremendous upside as she has improved dramatically over the past year," Florida head coach Gregg Troy said. "She will cover a need for us in the future in the individual medley."
While she keeps cementing her role on the squad, teammates and coaches alike just watch from afar, marveling at her potential.
The freshman phenom couldn't be happier — living her dream — swimming for the Orange and Blue.
"It's been such a fun experience," she said. "I've enjoyed every part of it."