Jana Burkard talked to several schools about leaving her home country of Germany to compete as a college swimmer in the United States a few years ago.
Burkard talked to a few coaches on multiple occassions over the course of several weeks. She only chatted with former North Texas head coach Joe Dykstra once for a few minutes, but the conversation made a big impression.
That short chat and some research Burkard did on UNT’s art program were enough to convice her to continue her swimming career with the Mean Green, which is competing in the Conference USA meet for the first time this week at the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center in Atlanta.
Burkhard is ranked No. 1 in the 1,650-meter freestyle (16:39.62), second in the 500 freestyle (4:49.68) and fourth in the 1,000 freestyle (10:07.74).
The sophomore will compete in her best event Saturday, the final day of the meet when she is expected to battle Rice’s Erin Flanigan for a conference title.
“She has had a great season and had a huge drop at the Houston Invite in the mile,” UNT coach Brendon Bray said. “She will have a fantastic meet.”
The expectations are high for Burkard, who is trying to keep a realistic outlook — an approach that she says fits her personality.
“My chances are pretty good, but you never know,” Burkhard said. “It should be either me or Erin from Rice.”
Bray has a simliar outlook when it comes to UNT’s chances of being in the hunt for a top team finish in its first C-USA meet.
“We have been working for this meet all year,” Bray said. “We raced really good teams, including four who could be ranked in the top 20 at the end of the year. Now we are racing our peer group, which will give us confidence.
“We have great potential to do well, but our main concern is posting our best times.”
No matter what happens when Burkhard lines up for the 1,650 this week, she feels like she made the right decision to swim for UNT. Burkard is enjoying studying art and has adjusted to life in and out of the pool.
“Everyone is really nice and open,” Burkhard said. “It’s not hard to get in contact with people, but after the first week you notice differences in the way people treat certain situations. It’s different, but you get used to it.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.