Courtesy: Eney Jones
Last week at Open Water Nationals in Fort Myers, Florida, two brothers were second and third in the 10k behind Frenchman Axel Reymond. Both brothers are U.S. National team members. Brennan Gravley was second, and his brother Dylan Gravley, placed third. The 10k is an Olympic Event. It is a tough race, mentally, physically and emotionally. I was able to catch up with Brennan recently about the race, his open water acumen, and his advice for fellow swimmers attempting open water. Brennan also won the 5k at Open Water Nationals.
Q: You first qualified for World Championships in 2019, Tell us about your escalation in the open water world from there to winning the 5k at Nationals last week.
A: Qualifying in Miami in 2019 was a big goal when I was part of the Sandpipers (Las Vegas). The importance of having international experience is second to none in open water, and I was very excited to participate at Worlds during that time. Because of COVID, we lost a lot of opportunities to have international competition in 2020/2021. Traveling to Abu Dhabi near the end of 2021 for the OW Marathon Series finale was a breath of fresh air for us Americans, and it was exciting being in such an elite field.
Q: You teach/tutor and mentor swimming in the off-season. What do you stress as important to your students?
A: There is a lot to learn when it comes to teaching athletes how to develop their swimming abilities. Many of the students that I have taught were between the ages of 7-13, which is quite an important period in development. The two things I always tried to have them focus on was providing their best effort and constant focus. Being able to hone your
concentration at a young age is a skill that can carry you through the sport, and I try to implement that concept in the best way possible. Most importantly, I always try to make sure they are having fun! At the end of the day, swimming is just another game and joy should always be present
Q: You are a junior at The University of Florida. Why did you choose Florida? Who are your lanemates? What do you derive from the coaches? Is it tough combining collegiate swimming and open water racing?
A: There were many factors that led me to choose UF. For one, I felt that the program was one that did lots of work, and that was what I needed coming from the Sandpipers. I also found the guys on the team to be as friendly as they were hard-working. Nowadays, my lanemates are Kevin Vargas, Kieran Smith, Bobby Finke, and Alfonso Mestre. Our higher yardage group is much bigger than these four guys, but they are generally the guys I race the most. The coaches are very value-driven, with honesty and respect at the top of their list. This creates a strong environment for us to have great chemistry. When it comes to combining pool swimming and open water swimming, I’ve never run into too much trouble. Much of the growth in open water comes from experience, and as long as I’m working hard at a decent yardage, I’ll be prepared for an open water event.
Q: You were second in the 10k at Open Water Nationals with a time of 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 53 seconds. That is a long time to spend alone. How do you stay present, engage your mind and power on?
A: I’ve always felt that this question comes up quite a lot for open water swimmers. In my case, I’ve always felt like the race carries plenty of stimuli to keep me focused and present. If I’m not focused on conserving energy, I’ll be focusing on the guys around me, And putting myself in an advantageous position. Mental strength also plays a huge role
There are many opportunities to relax and reduce the physical tension, but those who resist the urge are generally the most successful. Open water is often about pain management, and having a positive mindset in half the battle in that regard.
Q: Having a brother swimming and a swimming family is an excellent source of strength but you have had to lead the way. Was it ever a hindrance? What is your favorite workout?
A: My family was and has always been incredibly supportive, and I’ve truly never felt the pressure to lead. I’ve always been chasing the guys in front of me, and I think that mindset is the most productive for me. The goals that I have allow me to feel as if there is always something to shoot for, and I’ve rarely felt like I have a position to defend.
One of my favorite sets from my freshman year is as follows (LCM):
- 900 pull @ 10:30
- 900 swim @ 10:30
- 2 x 900’s swim @ 10:30
- ( #2 faster than #1)
- 1800 negative split @21:00
- 3 x 900’s swim @ 10:30
- (descend 1-3, all faster than
- Previous rounds)
- 2700 @ 30:00 (strongest effort)
ABOUT ENEY JONES
Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer.
- Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
- Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
- National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
- Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
- Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
- European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
- Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
- Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
- Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).