Staff Photo: John Bohn Michael Trice, a senior swimmer with the Brookwood High School swim team. Trice, was a county champion and state runner-up in the 50 free last year and also was fifth at at state in the 100 free.
In the 50-meter freestyle at the Maddy Brown Invite in December, Michael Trice was several feet behind the leader with time running out to make a move.
In an event measured by fractions -- fractions of an inch, fractions of a second -- even his coach thought the race was decided.
"I had already kind of resolved that it was a done deal because he was on the guy's hip," Brookwood head coach Greg Puckett said. "But then the last 10 yards, he just poured it on."
Trice ended up losing. But by .01 seconds.
Both finishing times, 21.24 and 21.25, are the fastest times in the state this season.
"He always seems to swim better against the tough competition," Puckett said. "He's just very talented. He has good technique and does all the small things well.
"Obviously he has a good swim stoke, but he also has good streamlines, good starts, good turns. And he's very, very competitive."
Trice has been the county champ for the last two years in the 50 free, setting a new Gwinnett record last season, and was runner-up at state. He was fifth in the 100 free at state and has the third fastest time in that event in Brookwood history. Trice was also part of the record-setting Brookwood 200 free relay in which he swims the anchor leg.
The list goes on, but sufficient to say, Trice is one of the best 50 freestylers ever in Gwinnett, a county that's seen its fair share of elite sprinters over the years.
The difference with Trice is that he isn't a year-round swimmer.
He was. During middle school and during his freshman year.
It just wasn't right for him.
"It was just too time consuming," Trice said. "It was tough (to make the decision). I just didn't want to do it any more.
"I thought about going back, I did. I just didn't feel like spending all my time doing that. And these practices are pretty good (at Brookwood)."
Instead he prefers to weight train.
"I like to do that more than swimming," he said. "And I just try to work my hardest."
It's hard to argue with the results. He was 14th in the 50 at county as a freshman. The next year, he won.
"That's when I started lifting weights and trying to get serious about it," Trice said.
It was also around that same time that Trice found out how good he was at the 50 free.
"The summer after my freshman year, in summer league, at one random league meet I just went pretty fast," he said.
The training clearly shows -- and he has the advantage of being genetically suited to the event.
Tall and lithe, with broad shoulders and long limbs, Trice is the picture of a sprint swimmer.
But he's also mentally suited to the 50 free.
"It's my favorite race," Trice said. "I just like the thrill. It's just reaction really."
The immediacy of the competition pushes Trice to go faster.
"He actually seems to thrive on the challenge," Puckett said. "Especially anchoring the relays, the hunt, he's phenomenal. I'm kind of used to it now, but last year, it would be like, 'Ah, this one's over.' Then all of a sudden, he'd be gaining and after the turn, he'd be caught up."
Trice feels like another county record is within his reach. He's dedicated this, his senior season, to his grandfather. Michael Brennan, for whom Trice is named, has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer. The two Michaels are extremely close -- they live just three doors down on the same street -- and it's Trice's hope his grandfather can see him swim at the county meet this weekend.
Having Brennan, who is also Trice's godfather and has often come to meets over the years, on hand would make any win, any record that much sweeter.
"It'd bee really great for him to see it," Trice said. "It'd be awesome."