Men’s Swimming: Auren to make season debut in critical match-up against Wisconsin

John Paschall, Reporter

If there has been one constant so far this year for the men’s swimming and diving team, it’s the less than spectacular showings in the breaststroke.

That could all change Thursday, with sophomore Uula Auren expected to make his season debut against Wisconsin. The breaststroker, who tore his labrum in the offseason, has been cleared to race by doctors and coach Jarod Schroeder and will participate in the medley relay and the 100-meter breaststroke. Auren said he’s making progress with the mental recovery of the injury and is inching closer to where he was physically last year, where he won nearly every 100-meter breaststroke event he competed in.

Auren’s presence will surely provide an extra spark to a Northwestern squad that is riding a high coming off last weekend’s impressive performances against Western Kentucky, Illinois-Chicago and No. 18 Purdue. With their top breaststroker now back in the lineup, the Wildcats will gain needed points in these events, which could help sway the meet in favor of NU.

The meet in Madison will be the Cats’ third in six days. Schroeder wanted to compile a tough schedule for his team so it will be prepared for the grueling days of the Big Ten Championships. Schroeder said it will be a challenge to get his team to keep the energy up against Wisconsin after an emotional weekend.

“They looked pretty drained,” Schroeder said. “I’m trying to figure out how to get them back in the mindset to compete. But it’s something that every team gets used to, competing week in and week out. We haven’t had any back-to-back meets yet this season until last weekend and now there’s another meet five days later. It’ll be important that they respond well. But I’m not worried.”

The Cats won’t be alone in terms of dealing with a short recovery span. Wisconsin faces a similar exhaustion level coming back from a trip last week in California to battle Stanford and UC Berkeley, losing both.

Seniors Michael Weiss and Daniel Lester are the Badgers’ two strongest swimmers and are expected to win a few races for Wisconsin. But the Cats are hoping that while the Badgers might place first in some races, they can snatch up second, third and fourth to minimize the damage.

“Now that we have that depth, it’s become a better atmosphere,” junior co-captain Tim Smith said. “We have to work harder as a team to get those points. It’s not just relying on a few guys. You can definitely tell the difference when everyone is working hard and the second- and third- tier guys are making up the points.”

Senior co-captain Charlie Rimkus said this meet against Wisconsin is crucial for NU to make noise in the Big Ten and show that it can beat a quality team.

“Wisconsin is a good opponent for us,” Rimkus said. “They are someone we’ve had our sights set on beating in the Big Ten Championships. We’ve beaten them in the past so we know they are beatable and that gives us confidence in the pool. We have more depth than they do. Jarod was telling us today that they have a few strong individuals, but we have a team. And in the end, the team will prevail.”