Men’s Swimming: Nilsson sets record on national stage

Sarah Kuta

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As the lone Northwestern swimmer at the NCAA Championships, senior Eric Nilsson felt like something was missing – his team.

Nilsson represented NU in three individual races this weekend at the event in College Station, Texas. He finished 25th in the 500-yard freestyle, 17th in the 200-yard freestyle and 21st in the 200-yard butterfly.

Nilsson broke the school record for the 200-yard butterfly, swimming a 1:44.05 to beat the mark of 1:44.06 set by Kellan O’Connor in 2003. It was the final swim of his collegiate career.

“I knew it was 1:44 something so when I looked up after my swim, I was really excited,” Nilsson said. “I was a little surprised because the swim didn’t feel all that fast. It would’ve been nice to get another swim, but I’m happy about the record.”

During the preliminary swim on the first day, Nilsson swam a 4:18.81 in the 500-yard freestyle.

“I felt good about that swim, and I think I set it up well during the first half,” Nilsson said. “During the second half, I was having a few stomach problems and wasn’t feeling the best. It happens.”

Nilsson swam the 200 free during the second day for a career-best 1:34.78, just .37 seconds shy of a consolation final berth.

Last year, more than 30 swimmers nationwide competed in each event. This year, only 24 swimmers were given bids to compete. Nilsson said his 200 fly swim would have resulted in a fourth-place finish last year, but with a drop in times this year, he wasn’t fast enough to reach the finals.

With none of his teammates swimming alongside him, the event had a different feel.

“The atmosphere was just different,” Nilsson said. “It would have been much better to have had more guys there, but it was still a good meet.”

After spending the last four years working alongside Nilsson, the NCAAs marked Nilsson’s last swim under coach Bob Groseth.

“He’s had a phenomenal career at Northwestern,” Groseth said. “He’s been a part of some of the school’s most successful teams, swam on some big relays for us and helped to score at Big Tens and NCAAs.”

From an unheralded freshman to a school record-holder, Groseth has seen Nilsson’s work ethic, both in and out of the pool.

“He is consistently a great performer, even during practice,” Groseth said. “He’s such a hard-working kid in practice, and just a great contributor to this program. He’s set an example for the other members of this team and we’re really going to miss him.”

Nilsson finished his career at NU with three individual records, including the 500 free and 1000 free, to go along with five All-American honors. With his career coming to a close, what’s next for the senior?

“I’m going to be relaxing and focusing on schoolwork this quarter,” Nilsson said. “I don’t know what will happen after that, but this weekend was definitely a great way to finish it out.”