NU douses Flames in road rout

Ariel Alexovich

Sometimes an older brother has to teach his little brother a lesson.

Northwestern freshman swimmer Louis Torres was defeated by his brother, senior captain Paul Torres of Illinois-Chicago, in two breaststroke events Friday night, but the Wildcats beat the Flames 143-93.

“There was a little bit of teasing, trash talk before the meet, but we get along really well,” the younger Torres said. “I tried to see it as just another race.”

In the Torres brothers’ last matchup, at the NU Relays in October, it was Louis who edged out his older sibling by .02 seconds in a leg of the 200-yard breaststroke relay.

Being shown up by his little brother a few months ago may have been the motivation Paul Torres needed, giving him the drive to take the 200 breaststroke Friday in 2:05.39, his best time of the season.

The elder Torres also benefited from the home crowd cheers in the Flames’ Natatorium.

“I remember the crowd cheering for him, shouting his name from behind his lane,” Louis Torres recalled.

Unfortunately for Illinois-Chicago, that was the Flames’ only high point of the meet. The Cats dominated the Flames the rest of the evening, winning every other event.

Coming into the meet, one of the Cats’ goals was to break five pool records before the Big Ten championships in February. NU is on pace to achieve that goal after sweeping the 200 butterfly event, in which three Cats broke the standing pool record of 1:50.73. Junior Kellan O’Connor won the event with a time of 1:47.62, followed by junior Mike Shue in second place with a 1:49.43 and sophomore Mark Hamming in third with a 1:49.91.

O’Connor earned the title of Big Ten Swimmer of the Week after his Friday wins in the 200 fly and in two relays – the 200 and 400 medley relays. It was the first such honor for an NU swimmer this season and was especially meaningful for O’Connor because he swam Friday while battling a virus. His performance in the 200 fly is the best any NU swimmer has registered this season and also qualified as an NCAA B-standard time, likely leading to an invitation to the NCAA championship.

Several NU freshman also swam well Friday, winning three events. Phil Mercier took the 500 freestyle with a lifetime-best of 4:37.11, and Nick Eggan won both the 100 and 200 backstroke.

In addition, sophomore Tony Swanson took first place in the 200 freestyle with a season-best time of 1:40.75.

Although Paul Torres won the 200 breaststroke, it was NU sophomore Aaron McCracken who defeated the competition in the 100, winning in 57.21. Paul Torres ended up in second – still ahead of Louis, who placed third.

NU raised its record to 5-1 overall (1-1 Big Ten), while Illinois-Chicago fell to 1-7 in dual-meet competition.

“(Illinois-Chicago) only had seven swimmers versus our 25,” Louis Torres said. “Even if they swam super-fast, we probably would have won by sheer number.”

Only one more dual meet is scheduled for the Cats this season, a face-off against Big Ten rival Iowa on Feb. 8. A win there would give NU a 5-meet winning streak heading into the Big Ten championships.