Family carries swimming in gene pool

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The Spann family seems to have a genetic advantage in the pool.
Senior captain Scott Spann, who was a finalist in the 200-meter breaststroke in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been picked for Team USA in the FINA World Championships this summer in Shanghai.

Like his son, Scott Spann Sr. also swam at UT and won an NCAA championship under head coach Eddie Reese. At one time, he held five American records and just as many world records.

“When I was young, my dad’s experience didn’t affect me very much,” Spann said. “It’s hard to look at your dad and picture him as a great sports star. It wasn’t until later, probably late high school and through college, that I felt like I could connect with his legacy.”

Because Scott Sr. and his son specialized in different strokes, it was difficult for Scott to compare himself to his dad.

“I don’t really feel that his success put extra pressure on me,” Spann said. “If I were to compare myself to someone else, it would have to be my brother and sister. We were very competitive growing up, and often we were very close in our times. It was way more hostile.”

Scott’s sister, Alexi, graduated from UT in 2009 and after a career as an All-American and captain of the women’s team. Their older brother, Austin, also swam.

Scott went to the University of Michigan for his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Texas.

“When I went to Michigan and she was still swimming here, I was a Lady Longhorn fan,” Spann said. “My sister and I would always talk about how much better our team was. Then when I moved here, we had a much closer relationship since she was captain of the women’s team and I was growing up on the men’s team.”

The elder Scott was thrilled when his son decided to transfer to his alma mater.

“I respected his initial wishes and desires, and I think he wanted to forge his own path in the world,” Spann Sr. said. “You have to respect that in somebody. He came to find out independently that he was going to forge his own path no matter where he was.”
Being in a swimming family has positives and negatives.

“It’s nice being able to sit around the table and have everyone know what your talking about — especially when it comes to technicalities, times and names,” Spann Jr. said. “But then it also gets a little annoying when you want your privacy at swim meets.”
Now, Spann’s return trip to China is all about redemption.

“At Beijing, I had a great run. But I didn’t medal, and I didn’t do what I wanted to do,” Spann said. “I am just looking forward to having a second chance.”

Still, Scott Spann Sr. was proud of his son when he made the 2008 Olympic team.

“He has, ever since he was a young child, been extremely independent and quietly driven,” Spann Sr. said. “He has been successful in achieving whatever goal he sets for himself. Often times he is able to do it independently without significant assistance.”
Coach Reese and the Spann family remain very close and Reese has been a figure in Scott’s life since he was young.

“I always will and always have looked at him as an authority figure and my elder,” Spann said. “I feel like we have a very close relationship where I can talk to him almost as a second father and he and my dad are great friends. I feel like we understand each other in a much more personal way than a usual coach and athlete.”

Spann Sr. is glad his son gets the benefits of knowing Eddie as a person and learning from him.

“We have a family-like relationship with Eddie,” Spann Sr. said. “He was in my wedding and my oldest child is named after him. I don’t know, short of actually sharing some genetic code, how we could be any more closely related.”

Reese and the Spanns always joke with each other and Scott Jr. attempts to find some dirt on his dad from Reese.

“Scott knows he can’t come for stories about his dad from me because I have usually
forgotten,” Reese said.

Reese is impressed with how Spann’s work ethic has impacted the team.

“He wasn’t in the picture to make the 2008 Olympic team,” said Reese. “He put himself in the picture by doing like an hour and a half a day of extra work than anybody else in the world was doing.”

Spann will get another shot at lowering his times this Saturday when the Longhorns welcome sixth-ranked Arizona to the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.