Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Tyler Hines of the University of Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers entered the 2013-14 season coming off one of their most outstanding seasons in recent history, with Andrew Teduits snagging the 200 backstroke NCAA title last year and Michael Weiss taking the Big Ten title in the 400 IM and the runner-up position at NCAAs. Additionally, butterflier and IMer Daniel Lester scored big points for Wisconsin both at Big Tens and at NCAAs, and was a critical force behind Wisconsin’s 13th place finish at NCAAs last year. With the graduation of powerhouse seniors like Weiss and Lester, the Badgers needed a new senior to take the helm of the young Wisconsin team.

Enter Tyler Hines. Tyler enjoyed perhaps his most successful season yet of his NCAA career last year with large drops in all three of his individuals. He was the winner of the bonus final in the 500 freestyle (4:22.06) and also just fell short of winning the consolation final of the 200 freestyle (1:36.18) behind Iowa’s David Ernstsson. He would also finish 17th once more in the 1650 in a new lifetime best time of 15:17.96.

In relay action, Hines was also swam the anchor leg of the Badgers’ 800 freestyle relay that set a new school record (6:23.98), and Hines’ split of 1:35.92 was also the fastest of his career. The relay cleared the NCAA A Qualification Standard, and Tyler would get a chance to repeat the swim at NCAAs, where the Badgers would take 23rd overall.

What is perhaps most impressive about Hines’ swims last year is the sheer amount of improvement that he has made during each of his first three years of college. As a freshman, he was a 1:39 in the 200 freestyle, and was able to drop 2 more seconds his sophomore year, and almost broke into the 1:35 range by his junior year. In the 500 freestyle, Hines was a 4:29 in 2011, but he was then able to cut it down to a 4:24 and then a 4:22 over the course of the next two years. As if it isn’t expected already, Hines has also made massive drops in the 1,650 with about a 24 second drop being observed between his freshman and junior years already.

The Badgers have become a symbol of consistency in recent years, and fast swimming is no surprise for the boys from Madison. Much of their success over the last few years has not been the result of highly touted recruits, but rather, has been achieved via the manufacturing of studs through hard work and steady improvement from within. Hines embodies this ideal perfectly, and this is why he will be one of the most exciting seniors to watch at the 2014 Big Ten Championships, and as the lone senior on the Badgers’ squad this year, his tendency to swim big when it counts may provide an immeasurable boost to the younger teammates that he has led all year long.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
200 free: 1:36.18/1:52.57
500 free/400 free: 4:22.06/3:59.32
1650/1500 free: 15:17.96/15:58.68

School Major/Degree: Political Science
Favorite Event: 200 Free
Favorite Movie: Rocky
Role Model Growing Up/ Person You’d Like to Meet: Erik Vendt
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: My roommates quesadilla maker is my best friend.

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

I started when I was 6 with the Normal Parks Swimmin’ Sharks swimming rec league. I really liked the idea of having an individual time and dropping time. Dropping time was fun so I kept looking for ways to do it more.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why?

My sophomore year in the 200 I swam an “ok” time in prelims and was scratched into the C-Final. I ended up dropping over a second in finals and winning the heat out of lane eight. It meant a lot to me because I was never really thought of as a 200 freestyler but I secretly always felt like I could go pretty fast. I think that race really changed my identity as a college swimmer.

Last year was a momentous year for the Badgers with Michael Weiss and Andrew Teduits coming away with Big Ten titles, and the team all-around had a very successful season. With personal bests of your own in the 200, 500, and 1650 freestyles at last year’s Championships, what do you think “is in the water” at Madison that’s been contributing to such great success in recent years?

It started with Whitney becoming the head coach and changing the culture. I’ve always felt like there are a lot of different ways to get faster and most coaches can write a good set. But what has set us apart is the expectations Whitney has held us to and finally the expectations we’ve held ourselves to. Every year the culture has been stronger and the standards higher, and thats why each year we’ve swam faster than the previous. We’re very thorough and try and control anything and everything that will make us better. The people that have bought into the culture have done extremely well.

As the lone senior on the Wisconsin roster, being a leader must come almost naturally for you. What has it been like this year with such a young team overall, and how have your experiences over the last four years helped you reach out to and guide your teammates?

This year we had a “Leadership Council” of five guys and we attempted to identify everyones strengths and weaknesses so we could be effective as a group. My strength and what I think the best thing I did to prepare myself for that role this year was to actively pay attention to how each team has been different over the years and how they were led. I developed ideas of my own on how I wanted this years team to be and we made decisions as a team. There are leaders in every class on this team which has made it easy for us.

The Big Ten has never been short of outstanding middle distance and freestyle talent, and this year will certainly be no exception. With the incredible meet that you had last year, what are some of your personal expectations for your last Big Ten meet?

Obviously with the incredible depth in those events its tough to know what anyone else is going to do. I was 17th in two events last year so making sure I score three events is a priority. Executing my plan and putting myself in a position to race top guys will hopefully push me to my goal times.

This year, you guys were able to pick up a big time transfer in Nick Caldwell out of Florida. How has the addition of such a talented distance product as Nick helped your training this season?

Nick goes about his business the right way 100% of the time. He’s the perfect “lead by example” kind of guy so from that aspect he’s brought so much. From the perspective of pure training I led a lane in between him and Michael Weiss during distance workouts, which really forces you to try and be your best every day. I know its helped me train at a higher level this year.

What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?

My family without a doubt. When I decided that swimming was what I wanted they were always willing to do everything they could to help me reach my goals. My mom gave me outside knowledge with nutrition and exercise science from her profession and my Dad has encouraged me to set really high goals and always believed I could reach them. My little sister and I have always really worked together as well and wanted success for each other as much as ourselves.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

I plan on applying to law school in November so that will be my biggest focus.

What should we look forward to from Wisconsin as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

I think we’ll surprise everyone but ourselves. You’ll see more motion W’s racing at night than ever before.

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About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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