NU takes 12 of 16 races in win over Notre Dame (Men’s Swimming)

Ben Larrison

A week after defeating Notre Dame in Dallas, Northwestern reaffirmed its dominance over the Fighting Irish.

The Wildcats took first in 12 of 16 events as they downed No. 19 Notre Dame 172-128 Friday night in Evanston.

No. 17 NU received strong performances from the usual suspects: Matt Grevers, Mike Alexandrov and Kyle Bubolz.

Grevers, in his first race since being named last week’s’s National Swimmer of the Week, captured the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 50.41 and the 200-yard back in 1:51.19. Alexandrov and Bubolz joined Grevers with two individual wins. Alexandrov took the 100-yard breaststroke in 54.77 and 200-yard breaststroke in 2:01.08, and Bubolz triumphed in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, with times of 20.68 and 45.87.

But the star of the meet was, in fact, a freshman. After coach Bob Groseth harped for weeks on the need for the younger swimmers on the squad to step up, Eric Nilsson stole the show for NU. Nilsson won all three events he entered: the 200-yard free in 1:40.41, the 200-yard butterfly in 1:51.11, and the 500-yard free in 4:33.55.

“Eric Nilsson has been really steady all year,” Groseth said. “The kid’s been a workhorse in practice, and he’s done an awesome job.”

Though while Groseth praised the hard work his freshman has put in, the coach was hesitant when it came to the overall performance of his team.

“We had a couple of good swims, (but) I thought we were a little bit flat,” Groseth said. “Overall, I was pleased but not excited about the way we swam.”

Despite the dominance of the Cats’ top swimmers, Groseth said that NU has not received the necessary output from its second and third swimmers to win at Big Tens. While last week’s second place finish at the Dallas Morning News Swimming and Diving Classic encouraged Groseth, especially the performance of his younger swimmers, he was disappointed when he did not see the same kind of showing at home against the Fighting Irish.

“Most of (the younger swimmers) have gone through high school and age group programs where they’re breaking down and you don’t really swim well and that’s OK,” Groseth said. “But here you’re at the Division I swim level.”

The Cats may not have extracted much excitement from its coach during the meet, but it did close the day with a thrilling 800-yard free relay that came within .54 seconds of the NU record. Nilsson, Grevers, Bubolz and Alexandrov teamed to win the event in 6:33.85, shattering the pool record and nearly topping the school record set in 1999. NU swimmers and divers lined the pool for the race, cheering on their teammates for the whole of the relay and rooting for the record.

“It’s very rare that you’re going to break the school record, particularly in a relay, in the middle of the season,” Groseth said. “No matter what happened, that was an outstanding performance, and the fact that the team was excited about them going for the record and the kids in the pool were excited about it was good (to see).”

Reach Ben Larrison at [email protected]