Preston Jenkins aims for NCAAs in final swim season

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Jaren Wilkey
Preston Jenkins swims during a meet on Sept. 8, 2016. Jenkins qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

The alarm rings at 4:45 a.m. almost every weekday morning, signaling to BYU swimmer Preston Jenkins that it’s time to start his day.

Jenkins wakes up early to give himself extra time to start the morning. Sometimes he begins the day by studying the scriptures, while other days he looks at his schedule and plans out the day.

No matter how his day starts, he is out of the house and in the weight room by 6 a.m. three days a week.

That early morning weightlifting session isn’t the only training he does. The swim team practices every day except Sunday and Jenkins, who is studying exercise science, has classes to balance too.

Even on Sundays, Jenkins is up and in a meeting at 8 a.m. to fulfill his church responsibilities.

Jenkins is dedicated and that dedication landed him a spot in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Trials.

“Preston is harder on himself than anyone will ever be,” said his mother, Kim Jenkins. “He has that drive to improve. He has always been very driven internally.”

Jenkins qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke at the American Short Course Championship in Austin, Texas in March of last year.

Walking out to the pools and seeing the full view of 15,000 people at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska was at first nerve-wracking for Jenkins at the 2012 Olympic Trails, but going back in 2016, he felt like a pro.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s enough to get your heart rate going and to feel that adrenaline pumping through your blood vessels.”

Knowing that he made it a second time was an even greater feeling.

“I had been working that whole year,” Jenkins said. “I felt really good and really in control. I was there to swim fast, but more-so to have fun.”

Having fun is a big part of everything that Jenkins does as a swimmer.

As a young boy and at the start of his swim career, Jenkins admitted he was wasn’t very good at swimming.

“I wasn’t the best, by any means,” he said. “In fact, I was one of the worst ones on the team. But I had fun with it. It was something new. It helped me push myself.”

As he grew up and became more competitive, Jenkins and his family often drove up to three hours to and from practices. Jenkins’ family made big sacrifices for him to reach his swimming goals, including moving to Florida from Georgia, so he could swim on a more competitive team.

“They were always there whenever I was feeling down, whenever I needed to be pushed, or whenever I didn’t take it seriously,” Jenkins said. “They were there to make sure I was giving it my all and that I was getting out of swimming what I needed to.  Not just becoming physically fit, but becoming a better person because of it.”

This is Jenkins’ last year as a swimmer for BYU, and his mom sees the end to this era as bittersweet.

“It’s going to leave a hole,” she said.

This year, Jenkins is a team captain for the BYU swim and dive team and hopes to see a sense of community from the rest of the team.

“I am hoping to see that we become a family; that we become a tight-knit group of guys that have all bought into the team vision, that all work together, that is always there for each other,” Jenkins said.

His coach, John Brooks, also has high expectations for this upcoming year.

“Preston (Jenkins) is an outstanding swimmer and I expect him to qualify and make it to NCAA’s this year,” Brooks said.

As for his personal goals for this season, Jenkins stated, “I just want to have fun.”

Jenkins and the BYU men’s swim and dive team will be on the road this fall due to construction at the Richards Building.

The Cougars will travel to the Mesa State Invite on Oct. 6-7 in Grand Junction, Colorado.