The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 29th

Off-Season Work Ethic Gives Erndl Added Speed

Staff Writer

For many college athletes, the summers are filled with long training sessions preparing for the upcoming season.

For North Carolina's Kevin Erndl, that was never the case.

Erndl used to rest in the off-season, taking the time to recuperate after the grueling collegiate season came to a close.

But things have changed, and now Erndl is flying.

Erndl, a junior on the men's swimming team, has started out the year at a scorching pace. Thus far, Erndl has tied the fastest time in UNC history in one event and equaled the sixth-fastest time in another.

Erndl attributes this success to his dedication and training in the summer. For the first time in his career, Erndl focused his efforts on working hard in the off-season to improve for the year ahead.

"This is the first summer I can remember of that I really trained," Erndl said. "I came to school, and I didn't have to worry about getting in shape.

"I could focus more on fine-tuning my strokes and working a little bit harder than I normally have."

Erndl's times have been evidence that this off-season work paid off.

At the Nike Cup meet held at Koury Natatorium last month, he etched his name in the UNC record books by swimming a time of 20.06 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.

The time tied Todd Schroeder for the fastest in school history. It is also the fastest time by any ACC swimmer this year.

"It felt really good," Erndl said. "It helps me carry through the rest of the year knowing that I swam that fast. It is just another motivational step in the swimming process."

Last year at the ACC Championships, Erndl swam a time of 20.17 in the 50-yard freestyle. That effort was good enough for a second-place finish and all-conference honors.

With that past success in mind, Erndl knew expectations for him would be high coming into this season.

"I try not to think about it," Erndl said. "I think it is more the expectations that I have for myself that are the hardest to live up to. I put a lot pressure on myself."

The individual events are not the only focus for Erndl. He competes on several of the Tar Heel relay teams and considers those races to be more important than his individual battles. Erndl qualified for the NCAA Championships in relay events last year.

This year, he's at it again. Erndl anchored the 200- and 400-yard medley relay teams that took first place at the Nike Cup. He was also on the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams, each of which took second place in the meet.

"I'd say I put more emphasis on the relays than on my individual events," Erndl said. "Probably more energy goes into the preparation for an individual event, but when it comes down to it my emphasis is definitely on the relays."

And improving through hard work in the off-season.

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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