Men’s Swimming: Wildcats look to make national statement and end drought against Iowa

John Paschall, Reporter

If Northwestern was trying to play down the importance of its weekend meet against No. 18 Iowa, they certainly were not showing it.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” coach Jarod Schroeder said. “We feel like we are on the same level as they are. We are swimming against a team that is better than us, but we feel like we are able to get to that level or are at that level.”

The Wildcats head into Iowa City looking to make a statement to the conference and the nation that they are a top-25 squad. The seniors, Schroeder’s first recruiting class, have yet to taste victory against the Hawkeyes.

Senior Alex Ratajczyk said the group had a team meeting a couple weeks ago get it in their heads that they could beat Iowa.

“It’s definitely something that has been talked about,” Ratajczyk said. “It’s been something that’s been getting hyped up over a few weeks.”

Though some NU swimmers feel they should be in the discussion for being in the top 25, Schroeder said he does not think his team quite deserves that ranking just yet.

“We haven’t had a meet where we are 100 percent healthy yet,” Schroeder said. “We haven’t swum well enough to be deserving of a top 25 ranking, and it’s up to us to show that. Swimming against a ranked team gives us that stage to perform at. Once we are all healthy and swimming what I think we are capable of doing that’s when we will get more recognition.”

The Cats are riding a wave of confidence coming into their meet with the rivals. After last week’s strong performance against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the team feels its performance might be on the rise. But senior Charlie Rimkus said this meet will show how they compare to a nationally ranked program.

“It’s a good measuring stick to see where we are right now,” Rimkus said. “Beating a top 20 team would be a move in the right direction for the program.”

The key to the meet will be NU’s depth in certain events. Schroeder said it’s vital for their second guys to out-touch Iowa’s second guys.

“If they don’t, it’ll be like Notre Dame last year where we won nine out of 16 events but get beat in the meet because of our lack of depth,” Schroeder said. “We got to win all the tight races if we are going to have a chance to win.”

Though he is happy to see his team’s energy at an all-time high, Schroeder does not want them to let their excitement get the best of them during or after the meet.

“We’ve got to control our emotions,” Schroeder said. “Once we get on the bus after the Iowa meet, whatever the outcome is, we’ve got to get ready for the next weekend. There are emotional highs and lows throughout the season and the best teams are able to control them. It’ll be up to our guys to have short-term memory and forget about that meet and get ready for the next.”

But Rimkus has an image in his head that he hopes becomes a permanent memory.

“The stands are going to be full, and they’ll be excited,” Rimkus said. “It’d be pretty sweet to make them leave quiet with their heads down.”