When senior Charlie Rimkus was going through a routine SPAC meeting, there was an announcement about the Wildcats’ final home meet of the year. For most in the room, it was just another bullet point on the meeting agenda. But for Rimkus, it meant a whole lot more.
“This is actually my last home meet ever,” Rimkus said about his thoughts at the time of the announcement.
He still vividly remembers his first race as a freshman, which was the 1,000-yard freestyle against Indiana, an event he won easily.
“Looking back at all the meets, it’s been a really fun time,” Rimkus said. “It’s pretty sad to see it all come to an end. But at the same time, it’s a motivating factor. You definitely want to end on a high note and give the crowd something to enjoy and remember.”
Senior Alex Ratajczyk said his family will drive from New Jersey for the meet, and he wants to put on one last show for them.
“I just want to really show my parents and the people at home one last time that the hard work I’ve put in can produce something in racing,” Ratajczyk said.
The Wildcats welcome Notre Dame and Missouri State to the Norris Aquatics Center for the Northwestern Invitational, which will consist of three sessions over two days. Iowa will also participate in the race, but its score will not be counted against NU.
Coach Jarod Schroeder will graduate his first recruiting class since taking over the program. When he initially spoke to recruits, Schroeder pitched the idea of being a part of a rebuilding process. Looking back now, Rimkus said he could not be happier with his decision to buy into Schroeder’s vision.
“I’m really glad that I took that message from Jarod and really thought about it,” Rimkus said. “To be a part of that rebuilding process and that first class that Jarod has graduated is really something special. Our class in general will leave behind a legacy of being the first ones to start that fresh slate.”
What Schroeder will most remember from this class goes beyond the boundaries of the pool.
“In terms of dedication, practice attendance and commitment to getting better, this senior class has been what I’ve been looking for in terms of the culture I’ve been trying to build,” Schroeder said. “We’ve tried to establish a culture over the past couple of years that everyone on the team matters. There’s not going to be any difference between a guy like Charlie (Rimkus) or a freshman in terms of expectations. We are trying to hold everyone accountable and on the same page. That’s the culture that these seniors have developed. They’re going to leave the team and the team will be in a different place it was four years ago because of their efforts.”
Schroeder said it isn’t going to be easy adjusting after this year’s class graduates.
“It’s going to be tough to replace a few of the seniors,” Schroeder said. “They have been the workhorses over the last couple years. What’s going to have to happen is the younger guys stepping into the roles that those seniors had.”
Last year, Senior Day ended in dramatic fashion as the Cats upset No. 25 Missouri in the final race by .01 seconds to win the meet. Ratajczyk said he thinks about that moment all the time but admits it would be nice if they could lock up the win before the last race.
“It’d be awesome if it didn’t come down to that moment, and we were on top of it the whole time and knew that we had the win,” Ratajczyk said. “But last year’s moment was pretty awesome.”