Licon leaves strong legacy as he departs Texas

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Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Fourteen-hundredths of a second.

That is what separated senior Will Licon from a qualifying spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

His time of 2:08.14 in the 200-meter breaststroke posted a third-place finish at the Olympic trials, where only the top two swimmers of each event advanced.

“It was a nice swim, and I’ll take it,” Licon said. “I just wanted to swim my own race and stay in the mix of things.”

However, “nice” is an understatement.

The same time of 2:08.14 would have won the bronze medal at the 2012 London games, a silver in Beijing or a gold at every Olympics before that.

It was undoubtedly a hard pill to swallow. He would ask himself “what if” while four of his teammates went on to win gold. But Licon was never resentful.

Instead, he supported his teammates unconditionally, and after he overcame his initial disappointment, he was determined to
bounce back. 

“Prior to whatever happened in the summer, I made the decision that I wanted to keep going for a while,” Licon said. “However long that will turn out to be, but it just adds a little extra motivation every day.”

Since the moment Licon first decided to compete for the Longhorns under head coach Eddie Reese, he knew he didn’t want to be just another swimmer. Four years and a tough summer later, he has fulfilled that goal in his own way.

Aside from helping Texas win a record-breaking 13th national title last month, Licon became the fourth swimmer ever to win four separate individual events at the NCAA Championships. He was also the first Texas swimmer to win three individual events at a single NCAA Championship meet.

The 200-meter breaststroke, arguably his best event, allowed him to break NCAA, American and U.S. Open records. During the four days of competition, Licon played a crucial role in five of the 11 national titles produced by the Longhorns.

And though he made it look easy, his rise to success has been everything but. He is a product of discipline and humility.

Rather than glorifying himself, he credits everyone he has met since stepping foot on the 40 Acres, especially his family, teammates and Reese, who constantly pushes him to improve.

“(Reese’s) expectations are pretty big, and I’ll try to live up to them,” Licon said. “But I’m just gonna go out and send my best and see what happens.”

When he graduates later this year, he will leave behind a legacy that goes beyond a “nice” swimmer.

“He’s punctual, polite and he inspires his teammates and those around him to do better,” former associate head coach Kris Kubik said. “He does all the work necessary to do really well when the lights come on.”

And when the lights do come on?

“He races with passion as opposed to fear,” Kubik said.