By Katelyn Massarelli
The NCAA Championships in 2016 marked the end of Jeremy Parker’s, ’16, college swimming career at UT. He became a NCAA champion alongside four other teammates in the 200-meter Freestyle Relay and the 800-meter Freestyle Relay and holds record swim times to this day.
Parker didn’t stop there. He went on to swim at the Olympic Trials for a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics as he started to make the transition from college athlete to professional swimmer. His work during the year since graduating led to a gold and silver medal in the 4×200 and 4×100 meter Freestyle Relay at the Maccabiah Games, held by the Maccabiah World Union (Jewish sports organization) in Israel over the summer.
“Competing at the Maccabiah games was truly an eye-opening experience,” Parker said. “It was my first time competing at an international competition and it was amazing to do so next to 10,000 athletes who all embraced their Jewish identities which were only unified through sports.”
Unlike the individual intensity he saw in the trials, Parker swam next to 24 Jewish-Americans representing the United States competing together trying to accumulate as many medals for the U.S. as possible. Though going for the gold was a goal, swimming in the 4×100 meter Freestyle Relay, the race for which he won his silver medal, was a unique experience as he swam next to Anthony Ervin, Olympic Gold Medalist in the 50-meter freestyle.
Ervin is known for winning gold in the Olympics in 2000 and retiring from swimming after his win. He made a comeback this past year in Rio, 16 years later, when he won gold again in the same race.
“He was an inspiration to all of us over in Israel and it was such a relief to have such an experienced swimmer on our Maccabiah team,” Jeremy said of Ervin.
Though he has had success after graduating from UT, it was difficult to maintain swimming outside of college, according to Parker. He didn’t compete as much, but he started training mornings, afternoons and nights leading up to his trip to Israel at Greater Tampa Swim Association (GTSA), the first club team he trained with when he started swimming competitively in high school.
He also practiced under Jimi Kiner, men’s head coach of swimming at UT for eight years and from August through March. Kiner saw Parker molding into the professional swimmer as he was making the adjustment.
“The changes that I have seen in Jeremy since he has graduated is appreciating swimming a little more,” Kiner said. “When he swam at UT he was one of our most dedicated swimmers, he still is that way I think he just enjoys the sport and appreciates it a little more.”
Kiner said that it’s easier for swimmers to train and compete when they have an end goal in mind. Though Parker had his sights set on Israel, he is just getting started on a professional level.
Parker is making the move to San Diego to pursue a master’s degree at University of California (UC), San Diego. He’ll be swimming under David Marsh, U.S. Olympic women’s head coach who was recently named head swim coach at UC San Diego. Parker will swim in the Elite club team that Marsh is starting up on the West Coast after Marsh’s success with the elite team on the east coast in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I just know I want to keep swimming for now because I love this sport too much to be done anytime soon,” Parker said.
Parker credits much of his success at the Maccabiah Games to his years at UT. He went from one of the slowest freshman in his first year to a record holder with the help of the coaching staff and a few supportive teammates, according to Parker.
After dedicating another year to the sport, Parker swam at the highest levels and made three lifetime best times, according to Kiner. He said that competing at the Maccabiah Games was an achievement for Parker, especially after making the transition to post-graduate swimming.
“Jeremy is one of our greatest success stories, from barely making it across the pool when he was 14 to becoming a two-time NCAA Champion, NCAA record holder, Maccabiah Gold Medalist,” Kiner said. “ Jeremy has truly been a pleasure to coach and I couldn’t be more happy with the way everything has turned out for him.”
Katelyn Massarelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org