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Men’s Swimming: NU confident before tourney despite small squad

Sarah Kuta

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In the last two years, Northwestern has graduated four NCAA record holders and an Olympic gold medalist. So every swimmer and every point counts at the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.

Though the Wildcats have the smallest roster in the conference, they hope to prove themselves as a major competitor.

NU will be swimming at the Big Ten Championships this weekend in West Lafayette, Ind. The tournament is the last chance for individual swimmers to qualify for the NCAA Championships at the end of March and the last competition for the team as a whole.

Though dual meets are important to gauge the progress of the team, there is no regular season championship, so team records are irrelevant at the Big Tens.

“Everyone is on equal footing at this one,” senior Adam Beckman said. “Everyone has rested the same amount. Everyone is prepared to go the fastest they’ve gone all season.”

Beckman will be swimming the 200 meter freestyle, 200 meter individual medley and the 200 meter backstroke. Beckman finished tenth overall in the 200 meter backstroke at last year’s Big Tens.

Beckman and the other NU seniors will have one last chance to represent the school as a team.

“This is our last go,” Beckman said. “We have to show all of the other guys on the team that we are worthy of being leaders. It’s a lot of fun to be the one the other guys are looking to. The seniors have sort of taken on this attitude that we deserve to be up there with the top guys from other teams.”

Senior John Franklin said there is an equal distribution of responsibility at the tournament. NU has such a small team that each race makes a crucial contribution to its standing.

“Last year we had two NCAA record holders and the year before that we had four,” Franklin said. “The bar was set really high. This year, it’s just us. We’re a smaller team. It’s a different mentality and it’s a good thing. This year, every point counts instead of all the weight being placed on a few guys.”

Coach Bob Groseth recognized the size of the team as a disadvantage and called this year a “rebuilding year.” The focus of the team is not to win the Big Ten Championships, he said, but to be the best performing team and to qualify as many swimmers for the NCAA Championship as possible.

Senior Eric Nilsson will be swimming the 500 meter freestyle, 200 meter freestyle and the 200 meter butterfly. He is hoping to break the school record for the 200 meter butterfly, the oldest existing NU record, set by Kellan O’Connor in 2003.

While NCAA qualifying times have dropped significantly from last year, Nilsson does not expect that to affect him.

“This year, I rested more for the meet and I think I’ll just be putting a lot more emphasis on it,” he said.

For freshman John Frutiger, this weekend marks his first Big Ten Championships. Frutiger will swim three distance events while trying to suppress his jitters.

“I am a little nervous, but sometimes I swim better when I’m nervous,” Frutiger said. “The older guys have just told me to relax, and they’ll joke around with me. It’s a fun meet. I’m going to try and enjoy it.”

Although the Cats didn’t win any Big Ten dual meets this year, Frutiger hopes Big Tens will be where the team makes its mark.

“No one expects anything out of us, but that’s all the more motivation for us to prove ourselves,” he said. “We want the other teams to know we’re here. Just because we’re smaller doesn’t mean we’re afraid of them.”

sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu

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