Sophomore Swanson named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week

The Northwestern men’s swimming team can boast two recognized talents now that sophomore Tony Swanson was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week for his superb performance Friday and Saturday against Iowa.

Swanson joined junior Kellan O’Connor, who received the award the week of Jan. 21 after leading NU to victory over Illinois-Chicago on Jan. 18.

Swanson recorded four NCAA B-standard times at that meet, in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 and 200 backstrokes and 200 individual medley. Two other NU swimmers have one B-time each: junior Mike Shue in the 500 free and O’Connor in the 200 butterfly.

“Tony and Kellan are some of the hardest workers,” head coach Bob Groseth said. “They’re positive kids who want what’s best for the team.”

What the Cats want now is a strong performance at the Big Ten championships, which begin Feb. 28.

“For two of the last three weeks, we’ve had the Big Ten Swimmer of the Week,” Groseth said. “Now going into Big Tens we have a lot of momentum.”

Heading into the Big Ten championships, NU swimmers have some of the best individual times in the conference. O’Connor holds the No. 1 time in the 200 fly and ranks seventh in the 100 fly.

The Cats hold multiple high rankings in the 200 IM, as well. Swanson leads the team in second place, with sophomore Mark Hamming in fourth and junior Mike Shue in seventh.

NU is strong in the backstroke, with Swanson at No. 3 in both the 100 and 200.

Groseth said that his team should rack up the most points in the 200 fly and the 200 IM at Big Tens. In the 200 fly, between three and five Cats have a good chance of scoring points – placing in the top 16 – with three possibly making it to the finals.

“In our sport, there’s so much (emphasis) on the Big Tens and the NCAAs, not as much on dual meets,” Groseth said.

TITLE HOPES: As the Big Ten championships approach, the NU women’s swimming team is considering whether it will have what it takes to win the conference title this year.

The No. 16 Cats will face five nationally ranked conference opponents in Michigan Feb. 21-23. NU head coach Jimmy Tierney said it is shaping up to be one of the closest conference meets in years.

“I think there’s about four or five teams that are really close, and on any given day any one of those teams could jump up there and take the title,” Tierney said.

In the Big Ten’s list of top times, the Cats have 18 swimmers ranked in the top eight in their events and 37 in the top 16. The top eight finishers in each race make the finals, and the top 16 score points for their team.

NU has the most depth in butterfly, with three top-eight swimmers in the 100 and four in the 200.

“We’ve got a lot of depth across all of the races, and it will be really exciting,” junior Carmen Cosgrove said. “I’m looking forward to Big Tens because the whole team will be there and I’ll have more events and relays. But the ultimate goal is NCAAs.”

The Big Ten championships will be the last meet for many NU swimmers but will also provide others with an opportunity to finish the season at the NCAA championships in Austin, Texas.

“At the beginning of the season, we had goals for NCAAs and goals for Big Tens,” junior Rachel Johnson said. “But when it gets to this point in the season, we have to focus on Big Tens while still keeping NCAAs in the backs of our minds.”

Tierney said the team’s immediate focus is on the Big Ten championships, adding that swimmers who can compete on the national level will be looking toward that meet.

Several NU swimmers will be fast enough to earn late berths for the NCAA championships, but performance at conference meets across the country will determine how many will go.

“Because the field is a little larger this year, we don’t really know where it’s going to go,” Tierney said. “It’s kind of a guessing game.”