Hackler makes considerable splash on national scene

Sarah Dornan

In the midst of his junior year at Centennial High School in Alpharetta, Ga., swimmer Jeff Hackler found himself with a number of options as to where he would compete as a collegian.

Facing recruitment from such national powerhouses as Auburn, Michigan and his home state, Hackler surprised many and signed early with Minnesota.

“Honestly, I don’t think we were on the top of his list,” Gophers assistant coach Kelly Kremer said. “But I think after he took his official visit, we jumped to the top of his list.”

Hackler brought his considerable skills as a breaststroker and a contagious mentality from the land of peaches, and is helping establish Minnesota’s program among the nation’s elite.

“I wanted to come here because this program was the only one that was on the upswing as compared to the other schools,” the four-time All-American said. “It was the place where I wanted to be.”

His desire to keep Minnesota on the upswing was illustrated through Hackler’s Big Ten championship debut. Hackler set the conference record with a time of 1:57.79 in the 200 breaststroke at Michigan en route to earning Big Ten freshman of the year honors.

As a sophomore, Hackler helped the Gophers to their third conference title in six years.

“There’s not a swimmer in the pool that’s tougher than Jeff Hackler,” Kremer said. “When it comes down to that last 25 (yards) in the 200 or 100 breaststroke and if the race is close, I’ll take Jeff.”

Hackler’s progression derives from his competitiveness and desire to always perform better, especially on the national scene.

In all, Hackler has garnered four All-America honors in the NCAA championships, including a third-place finish in the 200 breaststroke as a freshman.

The Gophers finished ninth in the NCAA meet last season with Hackler turning in All-America finishes in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events.

Last summer, Hackler placed second at the U.S. National Championships and returned from the Goodwill Games donning a bronze medal.

“He is no longer just a good college swimmer,” Kremer said. “He sees himself as a major player on the world stage.”

Despite Hackler’s recent accomplishments, he continually pursues success while remaining the quiet, yet “natural leader” Kremer dubs him.

“I am one of the leaders of the team,” Hackler said. “The best kind of leading is to lead by example.”

A typical week for Hackler consists of nine grueling practices with additional weight training three times per week.

On average, Hackler trains 20 hours per week, which is the maximum amount of time allowed by the NCAA.

Currently a junior, Hackler has proven himself worthy of greatness via his individual performances. But this season, he won’t be alone.

A strong freshman class and a solid returning contingent has Hackler convinced of a top-five finish for Minnesota at the national meet in Athens, Ga.

Hackler, who takes pride in sporting his Atlanta Braves jersey under his warm-up attire, will get an opportunity to shine in front of family and friends come March.

“I just remember hoping the NCAA’s was going to be there (Georgia) once I was in college,” Hackler said.

“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while.”

 

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