Men’s Swimming: Wildcats face Notre Dame in first meet of past few months


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Thanas Kountroubis furiously races to the other wall. The freshman is one of three Wildcats that compete in breaststroke events.

Tucker Johnson, Reporter

Swimming and Diving

After nearly eight weeks off from competition, Northwestern will return to action this weekend against Notre Dame.

The Wildcats have not raced since the TYR Invitational in November, where they took third place behind Michigan State and Grand Canyon. The incredibly young team –– 11 of 26 swimmers and divers are freshmen –– has used the past eight weeks to build its strength for the final push toward the Big Ten Championships.

“We’re confident that we’ll swim faster than we did earlier this season,” said sophomore captain Almog Olshtein. “We took a step forward during those weeks of practice.”

NU will compete against a Notre Dame team only a week removed from a 182.5-170.5 loss to No. 25 Virginia. Notre Dame’s close loss to a strong opponent is indicative of their toughness, and the Cats’ injury-riddled squad will have a tough time keeping up.

NU has been battling injuries all season long. At one point in early November, eight swimmers did not travel to Missouri for a road meet against the Tigers, Kentucky and Southern Illinois.

The team is still struggling with injuries, and a relatively thin squad has found it difficult to fill out heats in their best events. Despite the chronic injury issues, the team is still hopeful and motivated.

“Everybody’s been putting out some of their best times in practice the past few weeks,” said sophomore captain Gage Kohner, referring to the team’s winter break trip to Hawaii. “It’ll be awesome to see what everyone is able to do compared to before the training trip.”

Last time the Cats fought the Irish — one year ago — NU won comfortably 173-127. Since then, Notre Dame appears to have improved substantially, with several big wins this season and only two losses, one to Virginia last week and the other to No. 17 Virginia Tech in November.

The eight week break leaves a number of question marks surrounding the Cats’ young team. Coach Jarod Schroeder said he has seen huge strides forward in the team’s training the past few weeks, as the freshmen find their way in the transition to college. Saturday’s meet against Notre Dame will serve as a test for how the swimmers have improved since the TYR Invitational.

“We want to get back into the race mentality, and we also want to take a step forward from what we’ve been doing in the fall,” Schroeder said. “We’ve seen that in training, and hopefully that translates into fast racing this weekend.”

Schroeder closed his remarks by acknowledging that Notre Dame is supposed to beat his team, but he is confident that NU can step up to the level of the competition.

“Notre Dame is always a good meet for us,” he said. “They’re a great team, and we’re not there right now with the injuries and guys we’ve had out this season.”

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