Senior freestyler Chase Stephens has always looked up to Olympian and former Northwestern great Matt Grevers. He even said leading up to this weekend’s TYR Invitational, he was going to best Grevers’ 50-yard freestyle pool record.
The meet now behind him, Stephens can indeed place his name over one of Grevers’ times in the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center.
Stephens and NU dominated the TYR Invitational, beating Michigan State, Missouri State, Kenyon College, Illinois-Chicago, North Dakota and Truman State. The Wildcats didn’t trail during the entire meet.
Setting pool records was the trend during the weekend. NU started off the meet with a bang, as Stephens swiped the 50-yard freestyle record with a time of 19.87 seconds while also swimming as a member of the winning 200-yard freestyle team.
The senior said it was a really special moment to overtake one of his longtime idols.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Stephens said. “Him being an Olympian and me not, it means a lot to get up on the (record) board along with Jordan (Wilimovsky). I can say I put my print on the program.”
Friday concluded with another pool record, this time in the 400-yard medley relay, which consisted of Stephens, junior Mark Ferguson, junior Uula Auren and freshman Andy Jovanovic.
The Cats picked up right where they left off on Saturday, capturing the pool record in the 200-yard medley relay, the first event of the evening. Stephens, Auren, Ferguson and Jovanovic manned that record-setting relay, coming in at a time of 3:13.10. Freshman diver Andrew Cramer joined the record-breaking party and took the honors for the highest score in 3-meter diving in school history with a total of 369.9 points. By the end of the night Saturday, NU had more than a 130-point lead on the second-place Michigan State team.
Wilimovsky stole the show on Sunday, not only squashing his old pool record in the 1,650-yard freestyle, with a time of 14:55.25, but topping his previous school record as well. During that race, the sophomore also broke another school record with his 9:01.33 1,000-yard split time. He said after the meet that it was awesome to post such a strong time early in the season so he didn’t have to worry about it later in the year at the Big Ten Championships. Wilimovsky also said he wasn’t going to let his teammate Stephens upstage him on the record board at the Cats’ home pool.
“After Chase got a couple, he was giving me a hard time, saying he’s going to be up there more than me” he said. “I couldn’t let him take it to me like that, so I had to come back in the mile. But it was all in fun.”
Heading into the midway point in the season, coach Jarod Schroeder has his team very close to where he hopes it can be in terms of performance. He was especially pleased with the morning sessions, which have been troublesome for the Cats in the past.
Team bonding and chemistry has been another area where Schroeder has seen the most improvement from last year’s squad. He’s had more frequent meetings to allow swimmers to openly talk about their thoughts on the team and give praise to those who are doing well.
“This team may not be as talented as we were last year, but they’re coming together,” Schroeder said. “In terms of the excitement they’re generating on the side of the deck, they’re better than last year’s team was. A lot of the times we went this weekend were better than what we went at Big Tens last year.”
Although NU will head to the soothing islands of Hawaii for its training trip, the Cats won’t take a day off with the viable opponents that will be waiting for them when they return. Schroeder said he’s scheduled tough opponents, such as Michigan, Notre Dame and Iowa, to show that his team can keep up with the best.
“We’re going to work their butts off in Hawaii,” Schroeder said. “With the design of the schedule, I wanted them to face challenges. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins and fight hard if we don’t get a win during those meets.”
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