As a senior, Hunter not only defended the 100 state breaststroke title he won as a junior, but also broke the state record along the way. Just for fun, Hunter also claimed the state title in the 200 individual medley and swam a leg on Rome’s state champion-winning 200 medley relay team.
Not bad for an athlete who didn’t start swimming until the eighth grade. True enough, the 6-foot-4 Michigan-bound, four-time state champion swimmer hit the water only when he decided he was tired of another sport.
“Mason came to me and told me he was tired of running cross country,” said William Hunter, Mason’s dad. “I told him, ‘you don’t like running, so you might as well try swimming.’”
The cross country team’s loss proved to be the swimming team’s gain, but it took a while for the gain to pay dividends. After failing to qualify for state as freshman, Hunter dropped more than eight seconds off of his breaststroke time as a sophomore.
Hunter also began competing year-round. The extra training and effort helped his times drop and improve his standing on the state podium. After winning the state title as a junior, he refocused his efforts, and his performance at the Georgia Short Course Championships this past December gave him an idea he could go even faster.
“He won the 100 breaststroke and dropped to around the 54-second range,” his dad said. “When he got out of the pool, he told me that time would have been good enough to break the Georgia high school state record.”
The key was staying healthy and keeping the momentum going from December until early February at the GHSA state championships. Along with practice and normal preparation, Hunter says visualizing before meets helps him.
“It’s all about visualization. I practice my pacing to develop a race strategy. That strategy also includes how I’m going to turn and how I’m going to finish,” Hunter said. “After focusing my attention to the physical aspects of the race, I try to get rid of the stress and go out and have some fun.”
The practice, visualization and fun paid off on the Friday night of the state swimming meet during the preliminary swims when he posted a 54.73 in the breaststroke, breaking the state record. The next night, Hunter lowered his state record to 54.28 and beat the second-place finisher by more than three seconds, defending his state title.
With four state titles and a state record in tow, Hunter will take his swimming north to Michigan where he will swim with the Wolverines next year. But he says he will bring a big piece of his time as a Rome Wolf with him.
“When I go to Michigan in the fall, I will remember the teamwork here at Rome. We all encourage each other so much. I think that is a positive thing,” Hunter said. “We are always there for our teammates. We pulled for each other and we wanted to push ourselves to get better.”
Hunter’s journey has taken him from a one-time distance runner to a record-setting, state champion swimmer. And now he looks forward to the next step in his journey.
“I know the training is going to be a lot tougher in college, but I enjoy swimming so much, that I can’t wait,” Hunter says. “Being able to compete at a higher level is always my goal. I want to see how far I can get with swimming.”
And if the most recent trend is any indication, Hunter has the chance to be turning heads and breaking records for the Wolverines.