Mingus Union athlete of the week: Marauder swimming senior Tillemans leads in and out of pool
Mingus Union senior Gunner Tillemans makes his mark in and out of the pool.
Mingus head coach Gretchen Wesbrock said Tillemans has been “phenomenal” this season.
“He’s had a great season,” Wesbrock said. “He’s been a strong athlete since his freshman year, he had an injury his sophomore year. Last year was a great year but this year he trained hard during the summer, he came into this season really focused on making this his finale and we’ve seen that, he’s had great swims in qualifying meets.”
Tillemans is second in the 100 freestyle in the state and third in the 50 freestyle.
“Great leader on the team, again training really hard in practice, which just sets the tone for the rest of his teammates,” Wesbrock said.
Out of the pool, Tillemans is president of the Yavapai Anti-Tobacco Coalition of Youth, helped passed the law that raised the minimum age for smoking 18 to 21 in Cottonwood, has testified in front of the House of Representatives and is part of the Governor’s Youth Council.
“He’s a great student at school,” Wesbrock said. “His teachers really like having him in class.”
He was Mingus Union’s male athlete of the month for September. Swimming teammate Emily Grasso was the female athlete of the month.
“It’s really awesome,” Wesbrock said. “It’s really rare. Other teams are doing well but I think it’s indicative of how well this team is doing.”
VVN: How’s the high school season been going for you?
Tillemans: It’s been going pretty good, this year has been by far the most focused I’ve been. I still have yet to get a PR, that I did last year, I swam a :48.5 at State, I’ve gotten close. But I do know that with my retraining, I’m pretty sure I’ll surpass that at State.
VVN: How hard is it to shave off time when you’re getting that low?
Tillemans: When you’re that low, getting under, I mean just :50 on a 100 is fast. And to even drop a half of a second, especially on a :48 at a 100 is significant, so I’m just going to put a lot of energy and effort into that but that’s what we’re doing here.
VVN: What events are you swimming this year?
Tillemans: I’ll be swimming the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.
VVN: What are those speed events like? Going so fast?
Tillemans: Swimming the really fast events it’s pretty cool. You step up to the block and you just have to be focused. When you step up on there, you feel everything kinda slow down in the fast race and that’s what’s kinda funny: is a lot of people think “oh they must be going through so quickly,” but really when you’re in these fast events, everything slow down. You training just takes over and you’re just kinda going through the motions but you’re going at such a fast pace. It’s interesting, a really cool experience.
VVN: What other events did you do when you were younger?
Tillemans: When I was a freshman I did the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle. It was a really fun event, really good experience. One of those races is something where you’re looking at your opponent for up to about five minutes and you’re thinking “I gotta beat this guy” (laughs) and he’s right next to you and he’s thinking “I gotta beat this guy.” It’s a tug of war but I took state, I think it was 20th as a freshman in the 500. It was a really fun event but I’m sticking to the fast pace.
VVN: How much different are those distances?
Tillemans: It’s like a whole different sport pretty much. In distance you gotta plan everything, you gotta figure out how much effort you’re gonna put into each lap and you might think “oh I gotta put in the most effort” but even Olympians, when you’re talking about the mile swim, they gotta pace themselves a certain amount in order to finish that race with the best time. Same thing when you’re going into state for high school, compared to the sprinting, you gotta know exactly your stroke and you’ve got to do it as fast and as effective as possible.
VVN: How cool is to have two athletes from the same team be athlete of the month for the school?
Tillemans: I think it’s pretty cool, I’ve never heard of the swim team having both or a team and so I’m pretty honored to be one of the captains of this team.
VVN: What kinds of things are you into outside of swimming?
Tillemans: (laughs) so I’m in a lot of stuff. I’m the president of the Cottonwood Youth Advisory Commission, it’s basically a subcommission of the city council, I’m the president of the Yavapai Anti-Tobacco Coalition of Youth, which we passed the law that raised the minimum age from 18 to 21 here in Cottonwood, I’ve also testified in front of the House of Representatives, getting a bill passed 7-2, and I’m also part of the Governor’s Youth Council.
VVN: Do you know yet what you want to do after high school?
Tillemans: Yeah, I want to try and go to George Washington college and study political science.