Men’s Swimming: Experienced Wildcats looking to build upon last season’s success
October 12, 2016
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Northwestern plans to rely on maturity, leadership and hard work when the team takes on Eastern Michigan in the first dual meet of the season Friday.
Coming off an eighth-place finish in the Big Ten Championships in 2016, the team’s best since 2009, the Wildcats hope to ride last year’s late-season momentum into their first meet.
“Last season we got better at dual meets throughout the year,” sophomore Tyler Lis said. “This year, we want to start from where we left off and go from there to post some fast times.”
NU’s young team from last season put together a strong finish, but the biggest name on the squad didn’t swim for the Cats in 2016. This season, U.S. Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky is making his return to the team after taking a year off to train for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Wilimovsky said he’s excited to be training at NU again and be surrounded by his teammates, as he practiced in a much smaller group while training for Rio. He also hopes to use his Olympic experience to produce better individual times this season and to provide guidance to his teammates.
“Most of these guys are pretty experienced, but there still might be situations I’ve been in where I could give them some advice,” Wilimovsky said.
Wilimovsky’s homecoming has influenced the team in and out of the pool. Senior Andy Jovanovic said even before making his appearance in the Olympics, Wilimovsky possessed a model work ethic and attitude in practice.
“When I saw his demeanor and the way he approached everything, I was like ‘If he can do it, I can do it,’” Jovanovic said.
Beyond Wilimovsky’s return, the Cats are confident if the team remains healthy this season, they can achieve success. Last season, from top to bottom, the team was plagued by injury, losing key contributors like Grant Halsall and Van Donkersgoed, who have since graduated.
The team also enjoys greater experience this season. Unlike last year, when 10 freshmen joined the team, this year’s squad contains no new members. As a result, NU has been able to focus primarily on accomplishing concrete team goals rather than nurturing individual development, former captain junior Almog Olshtein said.
Olshtein said in the short-term, the team will focus on producing faster times during the regular season, while in the long-term, it will attempt to place higher in the Big Tens.
“I would say last year was more about building the team for the future,” Olshtein said. “The main goal for this season is to finish higher in the rankings.”
Jovanovic also believes the increased overall experience of the group will benefit the team in competition.
“A lot of the underclassmen have really stepped up in accepting their roles in terms of what we need them to do,” Jovanovic said.
To help facilitate improvement, the Cats have also made minor adjustments to the dynamic of team practices. Veterans of the team requested to have more opportunities to race each other in practice and over the past month and have seen positive results, Lis said.
Although NU’s swimmers are competing against each other more in practice, Olshtein said team chemistry is still a priority for a Cats squad looking to make noise in the Big Ten.
“We do team dinners together; we go to the city together, and we hang out together. It’s a big family,” Olshtein said. “I don’t know if you can get that on any other team.”
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