AUBURN, Ala. – There’s not much fanfare in swimming.
Especially at Buffalo. Especially during spring break.
Brittney Kuras can be the first to tell you that.
When Kuras, Buffalo’s first women’s swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Championships, took off for Auburn for the biggest meet of the season, she did not receive any last words of encouragement from her teammates or any type of farewell party.
That’s because everyone had already left campus for their week off.
Meanwhile, Kuras and Buffalo coaches Andy Boshar and Tiffany Gowens quietly left Upstate New York for the Deep South.
And Kuras, who is wrapping up her first season as a Bull after transferring from Rutgers, has quietly come into her final meet of the year and already broken two school records.
“You don’t get a lot of fanfare in swimming,” Boshar said. “But [Kuras] is fine with that.”
Kuras is more than happy to be in Alabama for her spring break and wouldn’t trade it for a trip anywhere else.
But she does wish she had a little more company from her teammates.
While many of the teams competing for the national titles have a dozen or so swimmers and divers, Kuras is the only one from Buffalo and only one of five from the Mid-American Conference.
“I’d really appreciate it if I had teammates with me,” Kuras said. “I think it would be a lot more fun.”
Nevertheless, Kuras is putting up times she never thought she would reach.
Kuras’ expectations at the NCAA Championships have been simple. Being the only one from her team, there is no one else relying on her for points. Though she is representing Buffalo, she is participating solely as an individual.
And knowing that she had slim chances of qualifying for the finals, there was only one person she wanted to beat – herself.
“I was hoping to at least stay at the times I came in with, and I’ve beat them,” Kuras said.
Kuras opened the Championships on Thursday in the 200-yard individual medley. She only finished 35th out of 60 qualifiers, but broke her own school record.
On Friday, Kuras competed in the 200-yard freestyle and finished 24th out of 61 competitors, once again breaking her own record.
Her final event is the 100-yard freestyle on Saturday.
Kuras did not begin swimming until she was in the fourth grade. Her parents wanted her to get into some kind of organized sport.
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Kuras, a shy 10-year old, finally found her niche in the pool. During a week-long, free swim trial at the local YMCA in Canandaigua N.Y. — about 90 minutes east of Buffalo. But it wasn’t the sport or love of being in the water that kept her in the pool.
The coach at the YMCA would always have a bag of candy and reward the swimmers with a treat.
“She kept wanting to go back afterwards,” Kuras’ mother Lisa said.
Kuras continued to swim competitively and narrowed her college choices down to Rutgers and Buffalo.
At the last second, she chose Rutgers. She was already extremely familiar with Buffalo and wanted to try out some place new.
After her first year at Rutgers, doctors revealed that there was a failed joint in her foot. Kuras had pain when kicking and it had slowed her down. Her training was limited, thus restricting her potential for improvement.
In addition to the injury, Kuras missed home, and in her sophomore year she chose to transfer to Buffalo.
There, she had surgery, forcing her to sit out for almost eight months. Through her therapy, she continued to train out of the water.
Once her foot was fully healed, she worked harder with weights than she ever had in the past and no longer had any discomfort. She also got faster, enabling her to improve all her times, which had stayed dormant since high school, and eventually qualify for nationals.
Kuras does not usually show much emotion prior to or after a race. But following her race on Friday, her big grin was noticeable from up in the stands where her parents and high school coach were sitting.
She is still a little shy and chooses to downplay her achievements.
Kuras likely wouldn’t tell a stranger that she was competing at the NCAA Championships.
Nor would she tell a stranger about her history of raising and training miniature horses and that she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Miniature Horse Registry when she was 13.
“Inside she has her own way of motivating herself and getting excited,” Lisa said.
Being in a very unique position, Kuras has nothing to downplay.
“This is something that doesn’t come around too often,” Bashor said. “And we want to start making it happen more often. You always have to have someone start it.”
Traditions are beginning at Buffalo and a good amount of it has to do with Kuras.
“I just appreciate this experience and hope I can do it a couple more times,” Kuras said.
Only next time, she’d prefer to spend spring break at the NCAAs with a couple more Bulls.