Saunders Keeping an Eye on the Prize
Feb. 24, 2014
FORT WORTH, Texas -- During his sophomore year in high school, Ryker Saunders had an experience that cemented his resolve to become a doctor -- he watched an open-heart surgery.
"That was one of the moments when I thought I could do this and that I thought I would have the skill and I would have the compassion needed to potentially save people's lives," he said. "That was one of the instances where I thought I wanted to become a physician."
He was one of more than a dozen people in the room. He stood at the head of the operating table and with his arms folded so he would touch anything and watched.
"I remember the room was packed full of people and it was intimidating as to how focused and how quiet and disciplined everyone was," he said. "I got to watch the heart beat ... You really don't understand how frail life is and how delicate the entire balance of life is until you see someone's life in another person's hands."
At the same time, Saunders realized how firm his resolve and dedication would need to be in high school and college in order for him to achieve his goal.
And the structure demanded as a member of the TCU swim team is just what he needed to remain fixated on his dream.
"I looked at the long term and if I wanted to do medical school and if I wanted to do things right I would have to stay structured and I would have to stay focused," said Saunders.
"Keeping in mind the long term is really what helped me stay focused and perform well in school," he said.
He has been able to meet the demands of the daily rigors of 5 a.m. wake-up calls for practice, class, afternoon practice and homework and meets on the weekends with the help of his team -- or family.
"Being at TCU has helped me stay focused and stay structured in school," he said. "Being on the swim team has helped me become disciplined and to work extremely hard."
His hard work has paid off in and out of the pool.
He was named 2013 First-Team Academic All-Big 12 and was a 2013 Second-Team All-Big 12 member (200 fly). He is part of the team that holds the school record in the 800 free relay (6 minutes, 34.97 seconds).
In high school at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn., Saunders was a three-time high school All-American and four-time MVP of the swim team. He qualified for the state finals five times during his high-school career and was named a High School Scholastic All-American twice.
In addition he was the recipient of the BGA Award for Excellence, and was a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta.
He will graduate in the spring with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a minor in history, and he's already interviewed for several medical schools.
"Being a physician, the primary goal is to be a caregiver to others and have the ability to give life back to people is something that I would absolutely love doing," he said. "You really don't understand how frail the human body is and you don't have an appreciation of the meaning of life until you see it in the balance and unfolding in front of you."
Saunders and the Frogs will participate in the Big 12 Conference Championships Feb. 26-March 1 in Austin.