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Junior swimmer and straight-A student Brian Flaherty keeps success in perspective

“If I truly did my best on something, then I am happy,” says junior Brian Flaherty. Photo: Michael Richmond

How’s this for a typical day: Up by 5:30 a.m. In the cold pool by 6 a.m. Chomp down an egg sandwich while scooting across campus for an 8 a.m. class. Finish classes at 1 p.m.—do homework ’til 2:45 p.m. Then back to the pool for practice from 3 to 6 p.m. If it’s not a lab night, go home, eat dinner and do more homework. As darkness falls, squeeze in some relaxation with ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and “The Simpsons.”

Meet junior Brian Flaherty, who’s logged in and wrapped up another 16-hour day. He and his schedule are enough to make even the Energizer Bunny let out a yawn, but the work’s paying off. The DU swim team member from Granite Bay, Calif., is a six-time National Independent Conference (NIC) finalist and was a member of the Pioneers’ record-setting 800 freestyle relay team last season.

In his first year, he collected 11 top-five finishes and earned season-best times in each of his three freestyle events in the NIC Championships. Last year, he amassed nine top-five finishes in freestyle events, including a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle.

But his numbers outside the pool are even more impressive. He was the only DU student-athlete last year to earn a 4.0 GPA (and not in “easy” classes—he majors in biochemistry and minors in biology and math). His grades helped propel the men’s swim team past all schools; last year the team held the highest GPA in the nation.

Still, Flaherty doesn’t measure his achievements by fast times and high grades. “I measure accomplishments by effort,” he says. “If I truly did my best on something, then I am happy.”

Flaherty has been doing his best—in school and in the pool—since he was 7. “It comes from my parents,” he says. “They instilled in me the idea that if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can. That’s encouraged me to work even harder.”

Swimming and diving Head Coach Jim Henry calls Flaherty “dedicated and resilient”— traits Flaherty demonstrated in spades during the last NIC Championships. Despite a particularly bad bout of bronchitis, Flaherty “found a way to get it done,” Henry says.

“You couldn’t tell he was hurting. But when the race was over, he barely had enough energy to get out of the pool. You knew that he had somehow blocked out the sickness and found a way to succeed,” Henry recalls. “As he put it, ‘It was my duty to score points for the team.’”

Lawrence Berliner, chair of DU’s department of chemistry and biochemistry and Flaherty’s academic adviser, says Flaherty achieves “so nonchalantly.”

“He’s someone you’d like to have for your son,” Berliner says.

Flaherty admits he’s learned a lot in the classroom, but he says swimming has taught him something, too.

“You get out of life what you put into it,” he says. If you aren’t willing to work hard, you won’t get ahead.”


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