By KATELYN MASSARELLI
Men’s swimming took over the lanes with a final score of 169-92 against the Florida Tech Panthers, . Senior sprinter Martin Hammer was recognized for his contribution to the team’s win as he was named Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Men’s Swimmer of the Week. The honor was earned for his performances in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle where he took first in each race contributing 18 points to his team’s overall score.
Hammer also was recognized for the 200-yard freestyle relay alongside teammates sophomore Marc-Olivier Caron, freshman Aaron James and junior Bryan Mattingly. The relay team dropped 11.98 seconds from their previous time securing it at 1:22.36, a NCAA provisional qualifying time.
Being his final season on the team, Hammer recognized the honor as a great accomplishment and a reason to continue to improve leading up to the SSC and NCAA Championships. At nationals, winning the 50-yard freestyle and making the top three in the 100-yard freestyle would be a great way for him to end his collegiate career, Hammer said.
“[Racing at nationals] will still be great, especially representing University of Tampa,” Hammer said. “I want to be able to do good in my races and finish strong.”
Last season at nationals, Hammer swam the same 200-yard freestyle relay and became a national champion alongside graduated swimmers Jeremy Parker, Jordan Augier and Runar Borgen. He also claimed first in the 400-yard freestyle relay alongside Augier, Parker and Khalid Aldaboos, a graduated swimmer. Their connection in and out of the pool was something Hammer reflected on positively.
Thinking forward to this season, Hammer believes he and his fellow teammates for this season’s relays have a lot of improvement still left to fit in.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Hammer said. “They are all great guys and have all improved this season.”
Hammer’s lengthy swimming career started 16 years ago. He was an inspired swimmer with many family members, including his mom, who were swimmers. Seeing his continued improvement in the pool was what continued to keep him going throughout the years.
Being an international student from Norway, Hammer knew he wanted to swim for a college in the U.S. UT’s people, good weather and swim program made the decision easier.
Through his years at UT, Hammer’s overall mindset and dedication has improved, according to men’s head coach Jimi Kiner. Kiner said he has continued to put in the work and has gotten smarter about taking care of himself outside the pool and as team captain continues to push his teammates to become the best athletes they can be.
“Martin is a success story,” Kiner said. “He came in as a good swimmer, but he’s on a different level now showing development in and out of the pool. All around, he’s leaving a better man.”
Hammer said his growth at UT has come from his change from training harder to making the necessary changes to train right. He was able to find the right formula that made him feel it every lap he swam in practice and every race he competed in.
“It could be a bad practice or a bad meet that makes it hard to continue overcoming to reach your goals,” Hammer said. “To me it could be something as small as good sets in practice that make me feel good and continue to love overcoming challenges.”
What has continued to help him overcome the challenges he has faced is the constant support of all his coaches, Hammer said.
“Thank you to the coaching staff for keeping up with me, tolerating me and pushing me to improve,” Hammer said.
Though his college swimming career will come to an end, Hammer was clear that his exit is just the beginning for him as a professional swimmer. After last season, he continued to swim for his home country, Norway, in hopes to obtain a spot on the Olympic team that would be heading to Rio.
He came up short that time, but Hammer intends to keep up the hard work, so he has a chance to pursue a trip to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.
“The end of this season is just the start for me,” Hammer said. “It’s going to be hours of hard work and a long and challenging process, but I’m motivated to keep swimming after college.”
The men’s swimming regular season came to an end with a win over Saint Leo and now the training begins for the start of the SSC Championships that starts Feb. 16.