By Jerry Durney
“Although I will always be grateful for the honors and awards I have received, I am not sure if I have completely grasped the extent of my swimming career,” Brennan says.
Brennan’s Panther swimming résumé stands among some of the greatest scholar-athletes Florida Tech has produced in the 21st century. She is the school record holder for fastest time in the 500 freestyle, 1000 freestyle, 1650 freestyle, 200 breaststroke and 200 and 400 individual medley. Brennan is also a part of four school-record-holding relay teams.
Brennan participated in the NCAA championships four consecutive years, and in 2022, she became the first All-American in program history, earning the honor in the 500 freestyle, 1000 freestyle and 400 individual medley.
While she is truly honored by the mark she’s left on the program, Brennan can’t wait to see who takes the program to the next level in the years to come.
“My name on the record board is not only a representation of my accomplishments in the pool, but the efforts made by my team and coaches in pushing me to achieve my goals,” she says. “While I am proud to see my name on the record board as a symbol of the countless hours I poured into the sport, I know records are meant to be broken, and I can’t wait for the next athlete to prove themselves.”
Brennan was even more accomplished in the classroom.
In June, she was named Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Female Scholar- Athlete of the Year for a third consecutive year, becoming the first person to do so. She completed her undergraduate degree in genomics and molecular genetics and biomedical science with a minor in nanoscience and nanotechnology with a 3.97 GPA while pursuing a master’s degree in biotechnology. In July, the SSC named Brennan the 2021–22 Woman of the Year—Florida Tech’s first— and she has been nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Achieving so lengthy a list of accomplishments is not an easy feat, and Brennan can attest to how much physical and mental dedication it takes to reach—and maintain—those standards.
“On my worst days, as I was beaten down by practices, slammed by homework, sleep-deprived and running on what seemed like no fuel, I would ask myself, ‘Why continue? Is it all worth it in the end?’ Coming out on the other side of a 16-year swimming career, I can tell you, it is,” she says. “Throughout collegiate swimming, I learned to set goals for myself, short-term and long-term. These goals did not only pertain to swimming, as I had goals for my academics, future career, mental health and personal growth. I always found myself falling back onto these goals as my reasons to continue. And with this, I challenged myself to always find ways to improve.”
How did she manage to set and break her own school records and make it to multiple national championship events? By always believing the best is yet to come, she says.
“Even when I would swim a crazy personal-best time in a race, I never once told myself ‘That’s as fast as you’ll ever go,’” Brennan says. “I saw my times on the record board as challenges, urging me to work harder and swim faster.”
She credits her head coaches, Justin Andrade and David Dent, for helping shape her into the successful swimmer and leader she has become.
“Justin encouraged me to branch out beyond my comfort zone and become a captain. I had always been a determined, hardworking athlete, leading by example. But like anyone, I had room to improve,” Brennan says. “As Justin demonstrated his belief in me, my confidence grew until I felt I could make a difference in the people around me.”
Dent took over for Andrade, who now serves as the associate head men’s swimming coach at the University of Pittsburgh, in the 2018–19 season. While Brennan admits it took them both time to adjust to their new roles, she credits Dent for helping her ascend to the heights she has reached.
“As a coach, David also pushed me to make goals for myself, in and out of the pool. As much as he wanted me to succeed in swimming, he wanted me to succeed in life. Having a compassionate and caring coach allowed me to grow into the person I am today and be confident in myself outside of the swimming world,” she says. “David’s unwavering faith in me, his ability to push me past my limits and his dedication toward strengthening the team all contributed to me excelling to the level that I did.”
Today, Brennan works as a medical assistant at an ear, nose and throat clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, while she prepares to continue her education in a physician assistant program.
“As I plan my career path in the medical field, I find myself reflecting on how Florida Tech’s academic opportunities got me to where I am today,” she says. “Participating in laboratory research taught me how to adapt to adverse situations, ask questions and set forth plans to find the answers, communicate with people of various academic levels and lead projects from start to finish,” she says.
This piece was featured in the fall 2022 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.