2016 Olympian (16th, 200 breaststroke)
200 and 400 Medley Relay champion at 2013 NCAAs
100-yard breast champion at 2012 Short Course Nationals
2015 World University Games team member
3-time Olympic Trials qualifier
Had life played out differently, you might be reading Molly Hannis’ bio on a soccer clinic company site instead of Fitter & Faster. Although she was the daughter of a swimmer, had two brothers in the sport and started competing at the age of five, she entertained dreams of soccer stardom. But she realized the water was her true calling when she qualified for her first long-course nationals when she was 13.
It was also around this time that she transitioned from backstroke to IM and breaststroke, the stroke that would take her to a Division I program (Tennessee) and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“Breaststroke technique changes from person to person,” she says of her bread-and-butter stroke. “The fundamentals, however, are generally the same. I’ve watched some of the world’s best breaststrokers and have studied what makes each of them fast.”
Incidentally, she notes, “Each of their individual talents are some of the thing I share with the kids I’ve coached.” Hands coaches at her club team (Neptune Swimming in her hometown of Santa Rosa Calif.) and Tennessee’s summer camps for age-groupers.
After considering the programs at Auburn, Texas A&M, Berkeley and San Diego State, the California girl decided to head east to the University of Tennessee to train under up-and-coming coach Matt Kredich. “It felt the most like a home away from home, and it was a place I could see myself really grow and take my swimming career to the next level,” she explains.
There was another factor at play: She would be able to make an immediate impact at Tennessee, which was graduating all of its sub-minute 100 breaststrokers. After unexpectedly redshirting her first season, she began her eligibility her second year in Knoxville. She won the 100 breast at her first SEC championships and clocked an automatic qualifying time for NCAAs, where she contributed to school records in the medley relays.
The next year, she swam the breaststroke leg of the Volunteers’ victorious 200 and 400 medley relays at the 2013 NCAAs and made it to the finals of both breaststroke events in which she set school records. She would go on to make the championship final in the 100 breast as a junior and senior. She finished her collegiate career as the fastest female 200-yard breaststroker in school history, clocking a pair of 2:08s her senior year.
She got her first taste of international competition at the 2015 World University Games in Korea, though that meet yielded more lessons than medals. “I learned how to handle nerves and gained valuable international experience racing some of the best swimmers in the world,” she says.
With her NCAA career complete, she’s also looking forward to sharing all her hard-won wisdom with young swimmers at Fitter & Faster clinics, especially when it comes to turns and pullouts.
“I want them remember that the key to improvement is to think outside the box and to remain open-minded and flexible when receiving instruction and making adjustments to their stroke,” she says, adding that the simple everyday act of getting out of the pool after practice improves technique. “This helps enforce a strong hold on the water during the catch and the pullout.”
But Hannis reminds swimmers there’s one aspect of the sport of which they should never lose sight: “It’s important to always remember to have fun; that’s going to be the key to your long-term success in the sport of swimming.”
That’s what keeps her in the sport, after all. “My plan is to continue swimming as long as I’m still learning, improving and having fun.”