With the regular season now behind them, the Rowan men’s swimming and diving team is gearing up for the Metropolitan Championships, where they finished a healthy second place in last year’s campaign.
What lies past this weekend’s meet, however, are the NCAA Division III Championships, which take place in Greensboro, North Carolina, from March 16-19. Juniors Jesse Novak, who is one of the two team captains, and John Morris already know a thing or two about what to expect.
As a sophomore, Novak went on to place first in the 50 and 100 freestyle, becoming the seventh athlete to ever accomplish the feat at nationals.
A two-time New Jersey Athletic Conference Diver of the Year, Morris will be looking to improve from his All-America honorable mention status earned at last year’s NCAA championships. The junior placed 12th and 20th on the one-meter and three-meter boards, respectively.
Morris noted some of the differences brought by the Metropolitans and nationals.
“Mets is a fun meet. The competition is getting harder every year which is good to see, but it’s something that serves as great practice going forward into the NCAA’s,” Morris said. “The big difference between Mets and NCAA’s, is I want to make up for last year’s NCAA’s.”
While pressure is sure to be presented in this year’s national meet for both men, it is Novak who will be defending his two titles.
“All advice I’ve gotten has been that if you go in and you’re worried about defending, then you’re not going to defend,” Novak said. “At the end of the day, if I swim a new best and still lose, there’s nothing I can do about that. That’s the beauty of the sport. There’s not too much pressure to win, but there’s pressure to swim fast.”
Head coach Brad Bowser believes the experience that Morris and Novak bring to the table will play into the meeting in Greensboro.
“From last to this year, I’ve seen them develop as men who seem to have a better understanding of their sport, and a little more drive to continue to become better, and really work in the pool and in the gym,” Bowser said.
With both athletes’ accomplishments in mind, Bowser made it a top priority to ensure that Novak and Morris were ready to make a run for the money this year. The coach focused on increasing each of their weights and workloads.
“I know John is trying to do harder dives and trying to push himself,” Bowser said. “With Jesse, we’ve added an extra day of weights, and tried to increase his kick, and his leg strength.”
Novak knew going into 2015-16 that improving mentally and physically would be what takes him to the next level.
“I’ve spent a lot of time watching my nutrition. I’ve been working with [Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Zachary] Taylor in the weight room harder than I think I did last year. . .,” Novak said. “I’m always training smarter, better and putting in quality hours that hopefully pay off.”
The duo has 24 days after the Metropolitan Championships to prepare for the DIII Championships.
Novak returns as the defending champion in two events, one of which he set the university record at last year’s nationals (the 50 free in 19.82 seconds).
Morris will have a chance to build off his 12th- and 20th-place finishes. He has done well through the regular season, going beyond the qualifying marks in the one meter, six dives (342.85, qualify at 255); one Meter, 11 Dives (457.95, at 395); three meter, six dives (340.00, at 265) and three meter, 11 dives (448.15, at 410).
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