If there had to be a village elder in the Big Ten, Indiana senior Eric Ress is probably the best man for the job. Having redshirted his sophomore year and also having used an Olympic Waiver to put off his 2011-12 season in exchange for an attempt at making the French Olympic Team, Ress has been around the collegiate scene for quite some time now. However, Ress has put those years to good use and has developed into one of the most versatile swimmers in the Big Ten today.
A backstroke specialist, Ress had a phenomenal freshman campaign with the Hoosiers all the way back in the 2008-09 season, recording best times of 46.46 in the 100 back and a 1:41.35 in the 200 back. He would finish 11th at NCAAs in the 100 backstroke after taking in that event at Big Tens, and he also took 2nd at Big Tens in the 200 backstroke (1:41.35, a 17-18 NAG record at the time). As if that wasn’t enough by itself, Ress also tried his hand at the 500 free, and grabbed another Top 8 finish at Big Tens with a 4:19.37 finish in finals. As he also holds dual citizenship as a French and an American citizen, he was also able to represent France at the 2009 World University Games, a meet where he helped France get the bronze medal in the 400 meter medley relay. Not too shabby of a start for the freshman out of Hebron, Connecticut.
Ress would redshirt his sophomore year, and after being granted an extra year of eligibility, he competed at French Nationals in the summer of 2010. Ress was able to showcase his skills to a European crowd, and he captured the 200 meter back event title in a time of 1:58.54. He would also take third in the 100 back with a best time of 54.62. When he finally returned for his redshirt sophomore season in Bloomington, Ress demonstrated he was just as ready for fast collegiate swimming as he ever was, and stunned the crowd at the 2011 Big Ten Championships in Minnesota with a dominant showing in the 100 back (45.11). Ress was the only swimmer in the entire race to even crack 47 seconds, let alone 46 seconds, and the performance was a new meet record. Unfortunately, Ress also broke his hand during the finals of the race, and had to compete with a cast for the 200 backstroke, a race in which he still managed to take 2nd in a 1:41.89. Previously in the meet, Ress also swam a 1:44.07 in the 200 IM and led off the 800 free relay in a new school record of 1:34.67.
Despite his broken hand hindering a perfect taper, Ress showed up at NCAAs ready to race all the same, and he grabbed a pair of runner-up finishes in the 100 back (45.14) and the 200 back (1:38.96). He was just outtouched in both races, and though he just missed standing atop the podium twice in the same championships, he still managed to walk away with a new team record in the 200 backstroke.
Ress would gain another year of eligibility via an Olympic Waiver, and though he would fail to qualify for the French Olympic team in 2012, he showed once again that he was ready to make the transition back to the NCAA level. Ress led the Hoosiers at NCAAs once more with a third place finish in the 100 backstroke (45.31) and a fifth place finish in the 200 backstroke (1:39.92). Eric also improved on his personal best time in the 200 IM with a 1:43.92, which was good for 5th overall, and he provided outstanding legs on the 800 freestyle relay (2nd fastest in school history, 1:35.20 leadoff) and 200 freestyle relay (fastest in school history, 19.69 anchor). He also competed at the 2013 World University Games, and he took 5th in the 200 backstroke (1:58.77).
Versatility and endurance are two extremely valuable skills for any swimmer, and there may not be a swimmer in the Big Ten who epitomizes these traits better than Eric Ress. In his sixth year since joining the Hoosiers back in 2008, Ress has competed in a wide variety of events at a very high level, and has time and time again exhibited his value to IU’s roster. With a Big Ten title and numerous All-American honors already under his belt, Ress is already one of the most accomplished swimmers in school history, and that is saying quite a lot for a legendary Indiana program. With the incredible escalation of talent in the backstroke events in recent years in both the Big Ten and in the NCAA, and the rise of superstars like Andrew Teduits, Ryan Murphy, and Jack Conger amongst others, Eric will have his toughest fight yet this year in his signature stroke. However, Ress’ experience, work ethic, and sheer talent may prove to be too much for anyone to handle over the next month.
Best Times (SCY/LCM):
100 Backstroke: 45.11/54.88
200 Backstroke: 1:38.96/1:57.59
200 Freestyle: 1:34.67/1:51.17
500 Free/400 Free: 4:19.37/3:59.96
200 IM: 1:43.92/2:05.05
School Major/Degree: Pursuing a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology
Favorite Event: 200 backstroke
Favorite Hobby: Mountain biking or snowboarding (haven’t been in a while!)
Favorite Movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Role Model Growing Up: Father, Colin Ress
Person You’d Like to Meet: Demetri Martin
Favorite Food: Ice cream
Pre-Race Meal: Oatmeal with peanut butter
At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?
I started swimming competitively at age 6, but I’ve been swimming for as long as I can remember. I got into it through my father who would take my sister Justine and I to the pool while he would do laps when we were little.
What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why?
It’s hard to determine my favorite collegiate memory. In regards to the team it was how everyone did the season I redshirted for Olympic trials in 2012. I was so lucky to have such a supportive team who completely backed me up on my decision to sit out that year. When my father was texting me results from NCAAs while at French Olympic trials I couldn’t have been prouder of all the guys there. For me personally, my favorite memories are probably just hanging out with the team past and present. Being here for 6 years means I’ve been lucky enough to have such a big group of brothers. I have to give a shout out to Jim Barbiere though. He was my freshmen year roommate and best friend all throughout college and a lot of my favorite memories come from hanging out with him and other guys from my class. This year, James Wells and Cody Miller have really helped continue the legacy that a lot of my original class hoped to influence.
You hold a dual-citizenship as an American and a French citizen. Has your international experience given you a unique perspective of collegiate swimming?
If anything it’s the other way around. I feel collegiate swimming has better prepared me for French nationals and other international meets. I have yet to make a world championship or Olympic team, but NCAAs is arguably one of the toughest meets to get a second swim at. The fact that you have to go all out in the morning at both conference and NCAAs definitely is good preparation for international meets to come.
Three years ago, you were the runner-up at NCAAs in the 100 and 200 yard backstrokes. Since then, you have accumulated numerous All-American accolades as well as spent some time attempting to make the French Olympic Team. What sort of expectations do you have for yourself in your final championship meets of your lengthy career as a Hoosier?
I’m going into this championship season with a different approach. Rather than be solely concerned with times I’m really looking forward to racing. I feel the training and body of work I’ve put in this year has really set me up well to swim fast at conference, NCAAs and French nationals.
Where did the team go for training trip this year? What was it like?
We actually didn’t take a trip. We stayed in Bloomington, which turned out to be nice. We were able to train when we wanted and had the luxury of being in town when nobody was here.
What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?
Probably missing the Olympics in 2012. It took me longer than it should have to bounce back from that, but I think it made me stronger as an athlete and a person. I remember reading an article by David Plummer that really helped and I look up to guys like him who’ve really turned their careers around after facing adversity.
What professional/non-swimming related aspirations do you have for your post-collegiate career?
I’m looking to apply to medical school after I finish swimming. I’ll know more about my future plans based on how French nationals goes in April, but I still plan on applying in the near future.
Do you feel there is something unique about the swimming culture at Indiana University? Are there any advantages to training at such a storied and reputed swimming powerhouse?
It’s really hard to compare any team in the NCAA to IU’s teams back in the 60s and 70s. Coming in knowing about the history of IU has been a great motivator to help bring the team back to those days. Success at that level doesn’t happen overnight, but I’ve never been more optimistic for the future of this team. Our incoming freshmen class next year, as well as everyone we’re bringing back has been doing great things in the pool and the classroom so I’ll be excited to see how they all develop.
What should we look forward to from Indiana as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?
I would have to say some of our freshmen. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they all do after a year of college training. And without question I have to mention the divers. I know it’s a swimming website, but our team really embodies what it means to be a swimming AND diving program.