Men’s Swimming: Cats finish eighth in conference

Sarah Kuta

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If senior Adam Beckman was the Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree for Northwestern, then the Wildcat parents and fans could have finished a close second.

NU parents yelled and did the wave along with other Big Ten fans to create a huge cheering section for all of the swimmers. Each group of parents yelled their school colors, making a chain of spirit across the rows of fans.

NU finished in eighth place this weekend at the 2009 Big Ten Championships in West Lafayette, Ind. The Cats finished with a total of 213 points, just 33 points behind seventh place Penn State. Michigan won the Big Ten title with a total of 829 points, followed by Ohio State with 521 points.

Senior Eric Nilsson was named to the second All-Big Ten team after winning a silver medal in the 200 meter freestyle, a bronze medal in the 500 meter freestyle and an eighth place finish in the 200 meter butterfly.

Nilsson broke his own school record, but was edged out of a gold medal in the 500 meter freestyle by rival Michigan swimmer Matt Patton.

“He wasn’t right next to me, but I could see him out of the corner of my eye,” Nilsson said.

Beckman finished sixth in the 200 meter backstroke and swam what coach Bob Groseth called a “monster swim” and “the best swim of the meet” for the Cats.

“I knew after swimming Friday what my stroke felt like, and I just knew I was going to have a great swim Saturday, ” Beckman said. “The whole morning before I swam, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had the perfect mindset going in, and I think I had a perfect race. It was really gratifying to end on that note.”

Beckman and Nilsson made up half of the 800 meter freestyle relay that finished third. Sophomore Alex Tyler and freshman John Frutiger helped the relay team to finish with the second-fastest time in school history.

The seniors also swam with sophomores Brian Kerr and Truman Liang for an eighth place finish in the 400 meter freestyle relay, the last race of the weekend.

“We were all thinking it’s our one last time together, let’s do something and make it count,” Beckman said.

Despite the team’s small size, which prevented it from being a top finisher, each swimmer performed well individually.

“We had some outstanding performances by Alex Tyler, Adam Beckman on that last day, and Eric Nilsson, who was solid all the way through,” Groseth said. “We had almost everyone score for the team and almost everyone swim their own best times.”

Tyler, who finished fourth in the 400 meter individual medley and seventh in the 200 meter individual medley, led a group of strong underclassman swimmers. Frutiger made a significant improvement this weekend, including a drop of eight seconds from his own personal best time in the 500 meter freestyle.

“That bodes well for the future,” Groseth said of the underclassmen.

The Cats will have to wait until this weekend’s Pac-10 Championships to determine which swimmers will qualify for the NCAA Championships at the end of March.

Even if Beckman doesn’t qualify for the NCAA Championships, he said he is still pleased with the way he performed at the Big Ten Championships.

“I’ve been getting mentally prepared to be done with swimming, but I am happy that I swam fast enough to possibly qualify,” Beckman said. “I’m coming to terms with the fact that this weekend may have been my last college swim.”