Though the following report was created by myself, Varun Shivakumar, a special thanks must be extended to Phil McDade, news editor of the WISCA at www.wisca.net for providing us with the information. Thanks!
The Northwestern men’s swimming and diving continued their formation of a solid Class of 2014 recruiting group by picking up a verbal commitment from Nick Petersen out of Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin and Schroeder YMCA on the club level. Petersen is a very strong backstroker with bests of 22.8/48.6/1:48.7 and he also has a 48.5 100 butterfly and 1:49.9 200 IM to his credit. At last year’s Wisconsin Division 1 State Meet, he won the 100 backstroke title with a winning time of 49.34, which was good enough to crack a 10 year record set by Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale (49.73).
As we mentioned in our articles about Israeli sprinter Almog Olshtein and about Connecticut-based freestyler Jonathan Blansfield, the Wildcats are doing a good job of solving some glaring weaknesses in their line-up. The team is increasingly becoming a speed-oriented team and this will surely pay dividends as collegiate swimming largely revolves around quick talent for both relay and individual purposes. Petersen gives Head Coach Jarod Schroeder multiple options for his medley relay, as Oshtein and freshman speedster Andrew Jovanovic already represent two strong and dependable back-half legs for the Wildcats for the next 3 years. The backstroke responsibility currently rests on the shoulders of senior Dominik Cubelic (21.9/47.6 in the 50/100 backstrokes), but following his graduation, Petersen is a very good candidate for the lead-off positions both in the 200 and 400 medley relays.
Though Jovanovic is a proven butterflier, with best times of 21.5 and 47.1 flat-start in the 50 and 100, it is not a stretch to believe that Coach Schroeder could experiment with the order to accommodate a Petersen fly leg. Though Petersen has only been a 23.1 in the 50 fly flat start, Jovanovic is an excellent backstroker with personal bests of 22.0/47.4/1:44.5 in the backstrokes, so it is possible that the Wisconsin-native will be asked to demonstrate his versatility in different strokes. However, he will also have to compete with junior Mark Ferguson who was a 21.3 for the Wildcats at last year’s Big Ten meet on the fly split of the 200 medley relay.
Finally, Petersen may solve one of the Wildcats’ biggest needs, which is the need for a dependable IMer. Northwestern only had one swimmer in the 200 yard individual medley, and they scored no points in the event at last year’s Championships. As Nick has already dipped under the 1:50 barrier, he will be a great asset for the Wildcats in the individual medley if he can drop a little more time this year and approach the 1:47/1:48 range that it takes to earn a second swim at Big Tens.
The Northwestern Women received a verbal commitment from Anna Keane, a sprint freestyle specialist out of Bellevue Club Swim Team in Bellevue, WA and Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood, WA . She has bests of 23.3/50.6/1:50.3 in the 50-100-200 freestyles in short course, and she has long course bests of 26.8 and 58.5 in the 50 and 100. She is also a respectable backstroker with short course bests of 56.8/2:03.8 in the 100 and 200 backstroke, and she also has a 2:05.8 200 IM to her name as well. She is the 2011 and 2012 Washington State Champion in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles. She is the 5th ranked swimmer out of the state of Washington.
The Wildcats had a fairly successful 2012-13 season largely due to the leadership of then-senior Taylor Reynolds, who proved to be a force for Northwestern in the sprint events and in the relays. She had one of the fastest times in the country going into NCAAs in the 50 free with her 22.14 prelim performance from the 2013 Big Ten Championships, and she also boasted a 48.8 time in her 100 freestyle that was good for a tie for 2nd place Additionally, she also had the second fastest freestyle relay split in the 200 medley relay with a 21.68 anchor leg (Big Ten Record Holder and Champion in the 50 free, Ivy Martin, was only one one-hundredth faster at 21.67).
Outside of Reynolds, the Wildcats only managed to post a handful of scoring swims throughout the 2013 Big Ten Championships. Current senior Rebecca Soderholm placed 12th in the 400 IM (4:17.93) while then-senior Meredith King joined her in the B-final with a 15th place effort (4:19.86). Also, current sophomore Ellen Anderson took 13th place in the 1,650 freestyle with a time of 16:38.35. The Wildcats also scored a large amount of points from the diving events from sisters Felicitas Lenz (then-senior) and Cosima Lenz (current senior). Felicitas was 13th on 1-meter, fourth on 3-meter, and 3rd on Platform while her sister, Cosima, was 16th on 1-meter, 7th on 3-meter, and 5th on platform.
Keane will be a valuable addition to the wildcats in a number of individual events, and she will also become an immediate relay option. With the graduation of seniors Taylor Reynolds and Katherine McCullough, Keane would currently be 2nd amongst the Wildcat returners in the 50 freestyle behind junior Valerie Nubbe (23.25). Keane would also be 2nd in the 100 freestyle behind Nubbe once again (50.45). As for the 200 yard freestyle, Keane will also likely see some action there since seniors Jackie Powell (best time 1:46.9) and Erin Sosdian (best time 1:48.8) will both graduate before she enters college. Expect to see her participate in all the freestyle relays for Northwestern with a possible medley relay spot or two in the mix.
In the backstrokes, Keane may see some action as well, as the Wildcats did not score any points in the backstroke at last year’s Big Ten Championships. Sophomore Karen Turner leads the returners with a collegiate best of 55.59 (her career best is a 54.1 from the 2009 SCY Junior Nationals) and current freshman Lacey Locke has a 54.26 to her name as well. Keane will surely enhance the Wildcats depth in the backstroke if Head Coach Jimmy Tierney chooses to experiment with Keane’s versatility. Her case may also be helped if she shows improvement during her senior year of high school, and if she can bring her 200 backstroke close to the 2 minute barrier, she will be a viable option in the longer backstroke as well.