Max Bryant realizes dream of college swimming

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen High School senior and longtime Aspen Speedos swimmer Max Bryant, a familiar figure at the ARC pool in Aspen, will swim for Southern Methodist University in Dallas next year.
Dale Strode/The Aspen Times |

Max Bryant is ready for some teammates. Finally.

Bryant, an Aspen High School senior and longtime swimmer with the Aspen Speedos, has been invited as a walk-on to the Southern Methodist University swim team in Dallas.

“I’m really looking forward to having teammates,” Bryant said before a recent workout at the ARC pool in Aspen. For years, Bryant has been a solo swimmer in his age group with the Aspen Speedos.

That’s about to change when Bryant joins the NCAA Division I program at SMU.

“Whenever I get a chance to train with other kids my age, at a camp or a Western Slope (event), that … motivates me. It’s that kind of motivation you get from competing every day in practice,” Bryant said. “I didn’t get that a lot (here,) so I’m looking forward to that (teammates at SMU).”

Bryant said his often solitary training as the only swimmer in his age group taught him to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.

“It’s tough (to train alone). But it helped,” Bryant said. “That makes you a stronger athlete in the end.”

The AHS senior said he first selected SMU for its academic credentials — particularly the famed Cox School of Business.

“I … wanted to go to SMU whether or not I swam because of the business opportunities there,” he said. “This is just a bonus for me … to swim college. That’s something I’ve want to do since I was young.”

Bryant first started swimming in Evergreen.

“To be honest, I didn’t get into it until I was 10 year old, and I was pretty terrible,” Bryant said.

But when he started swimming with coach Gordon Gerson and the Aspen Speedos, his opinions (and expectations) changed.

“About the time I turned 13, I understood. I liked it. I enjoyed seeing my hard work pay off,” said Bryant, the son of Brooks and Elizabeth Bryant. “You can measure your progress (in swimming) better than in most sports. I thought that was pretty cool.”

A year later, Bryant set his sights on college swimming.

“When I was 14, Gordon (Gerson) told me he wanted me to win the state championship for 14-year-olds in Colorado,” Bryant said. “It was a pretty big deal at the time. Then, when I won (the state title), I just really wanted to be an NCAA Division I athlete.”

SMU kept surfacing in his search for colleges.

“The Cox School of Business at SMU is one of the higher-end institutions,” he said. “One of the things when I visited there is they have more internships to fill than they have students. I thought that was pretty amazing.”

Those long-term opportunities match up with an immediate opportunity to swim for the Mustangs.

“I love Dallas. I should have a lot of opportunities there,” he said. “I like the South. I like the climate a lot.”

And he’ll step up to the challenge, according to his longtime club coach.

“He rises to the challenge,” Gerson said of the swimming prodigy who will continue his career in college.

For example, Gerson said, on a recent snowy morning, Bryant was at the ARC pool well before the 6 a.m. workout time. He had the lane markers already set up.

Bryant was there all by himself — ready to go to work.

“He’s into it. He wants to be good at it,” Gerson said.

He said that overcoming the lack of practice competition set Bryant apart.

“The Loveland coach, Jim Nickell, said he doesn’t know how Max does it,” Gerson said.

Bryant is the second Speedos swimmer to sign with a Division I swim program recently.

Kelcie Gerson, the daughter of the head coach, will swim at Columbia University in New York City next year.

“I’m excited to see how Max will do at Dallas and Kelcie will do at Columbia. He and Kelcie have been an important part of the team here (Aspen Speedos).”

Bryant, for his part, said his progress as a swimmer came through the Speedos swim club.

“In terms of coaching, Gordon is like a second father to me. He is a disciplinarian to me in particular,” Bryant said. “That’s helped me progress a lot. Growing up with him as a coach is such a blessing.”

Bryant said Gerson was creative in the training methods he used.

“All the time, he’s trying new things,” said Bryant, who expects to swim in the middle distance races at SMU — 200 butterfly, 400 individual medley, 500 freestyle.

“As I’m getting stronger and stronger, I expect to get faster at the shorter events,” said Bryant, who is eager to work his way onto the college relay teams. “I’d love to swim relays (in college).”

In the meantime, Bryant said he’ll train with the Aspen Speedos.

Then, he said he’ll amp up his dryland training before he heads off to the next chapter in his swimming life.