Utah Men's Swimmer Jack Burton practices inside the Ute Natatorium at the U in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Jack Burton is a hard man to miss. He is the only swimmer that you will ever see with a beard, which, against conventional swimming wisdom, does not slow him down one bit. So far in his junior season with Utah swim and dive, Burton is undefeated in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.

When Burton left England to come swim competitively in the United States, the culture of swimming at Utah was what really drew him to the U.

“Part of the reason why I came to Utah in the beginning was that they were this up-and-coming program,” Burton said. “They’ve seen vast changes over and over again and I wanted to be a part of helping the team grow.”

Helped he has. In six individual events this season, Burton has not lost. His times in the 100-yard breast have all been sub 57 seconds while his 200-yard breast times stand between 2:00 and 2:04. According to Utah swimming head coach Joe Dykstra, it took some very subtle tweaks in Burton’s training and approach to gain these results.

“Jack had a really good summer of conditioning work in preparation for this season that maybe wasn’t in place the previous year,” Dykstra said. “He’s also made some technique changes that have really helped him become a better short course swimmer. That was a big transition earlier in his career coming from England where they swim primarily a 50-meter pool to a 25-yard pool here.”

While conditioning and managing stroke count techniques have certainly improved Burton’s performance on meet days, he attributes his success to the team atmosphere present this season for the Utes.

“I think it’s the team spirit, it’s been the best since I’ve been here. There is such an enthusiasm behind each and every race that really helps push you forward,” Burton said.

Utah Men's Swimmer Jack Burton practices inside the Ute Natatorium at the U in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)
Utah Men’s Swimmer Jack Burton practices inside the Ute Natatorium at the U in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Those who have been to a meet at Ute Natatorium know what Burton is referring to. Each and every race, while opposing squads are huddled on the bench, or off on their own preparing, the Utes are up on the pool deck encouraging their swimmers and spotting for them as they compete.

“That’s a huge part of swimming,” Burton said. “I think coach Joe has been really good about making sure that we are up, cheering and doing whatever we can, even out of the pool to make sure we are helping the team get the wins we need. For example, the 200-yard IM against Arizona, one of our seniors touched out an Arizona guy by .03 seconds because we were right behind him while they were sitting around.”

Moving forward, Burton says his two main goals are staying fit and qualifying for NCAA’s in the spring.

“I had a rough time last season, not qualifying for NCAA’s last season, so that is definitely a major goal of mine,” Burton said. “Getting fit has been huge, but staying fit all the way through Pac-12’s and NCAA’s is the major goal.”

Like mentioned before, Burton is hard to miss at the pool. He struts around in his Union Jack British Swimming speedo, with his red hair and beard, but more importantly, it’s easy to spot him by the effort he puts into swimming every day. He is there, counting strokes in the 25-yard pool, ensuring that he’s not too long or too short as he reaches for the turn. He’s there coaching up other swimmers, and allowing them to help him as well. While his times have been impressive thus far, he says that he wants to be known for more at the U.

“I want to be able to be able to lead this team onto better things,” Burton said. “I want to be able to help the team grow, and to be competitive nationally year-in and year-out.”

As his work ethic and enthusiasm for his team and for swimming continue to show through, the goals that Burton has set are unquestionably achievable. Both in the pool and on the deck, Burton looks to lead the Utes to bigger and better things.

b.marshall@dailyutahchronicle.com

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