Ahead of the Pack

Back-to-back national champion in the 100 back, senior Matt Grevers is working hard this year to end his final season on a high note.

Back-to-back national champion in the 100 back, senior Matt Grevers is working hard this year to end his final season on a high note.

Dec. 6, 2006

Senior Matt Grevers picked up his second Big Ten Athlete of the Week honor this year on Nov. 21, adding to his already long list of accomplishments as a Wildcat. The Lake Forest Ill., native became Northwestern's men's swimming's first national champion since 1958 his sophomore year in the 100 back successful defending his title again last year. This year Grevers has already set three NCAA `A' cuts times, along with breaking four pool, two school and one Big Ten record.


With his final conference season underway, the 21 time All-America talks with the Big Ten about his success so far this season, what motivates him when he is so far ahead, and how staying close to home hasn't been so bad after all.


Northwestern was ranked No. 8 in the CSCAA preseason poll making it the highest ranking in program history. How does listed in the top 10 with schools like Stanford, Texas, Arizona and Cal mean to the team?

That is a great accomplishment for us. It has always been a goal of ours to be recognized in the swimming community as a good team. To finally see that realization is a great feeling.


As the first swimmer in the water in most of the team medley relays what is your job in that first leg?

I think a lot of the guys on the relay don't necessarily expect, but assume that I will get them a little bit of a lead just because backstroke is one of my better events. I think it is a little bit of pressure knowing that I have to go out there and do a good job. If I do a good job and come out with a great split I think it inspires the rest of the relay. On the other hand, I know I can't bag it either because if I go slow my teammates are going to see that and have little motivation to give it their all. Other than pressure it's more of a responsibility to hit the water first and make sure the relay gets off to a good start.


In the TYR Invitational on Nov. 17-19 you swam a 200 back preliminary time of 1:48.18 and then went on to claim a NCAA `A' time of 1:40.66. What got into you?

That is a race that people have been giving me a hard time about for awhile. The way I swim backstroke I should be geared toward the 200 back and I have always been a baby about it I guess. So I thought I would give it a shot this meet and see what I can do. In the prelims I have always been a fan of just making it and conserving as much energy as you can and then that night give it your all. I felt good and just pushed myself and ended up with a good time.


In that same event the second place finisher was eight seconds behind you. What motivates you to push yourself when you're that far ahead?

In backstroke it's hard to look around anyway so I just went into that race with the clock in mind. Like I said I just wanted to prove myself, not just to the team or to the people who are asking, `why don't you swim this event?' but more to the people I might be racing at the NCAA, like Doug Van Wie. I want him to be a little scared. I want him to know he doesn't have this race in the bag. I want to put some pressure on him.


Note: Grevers edged out Van Wie (Auburn) in the 2006 NCAA Championships last year.


You're not listed as a fly swimmer, although you do swim the IM, yet you swam a NCAA `A' cut of 46.96 at the TYR Invitational. Where did that race come from?

I've always enjoyed butterfly. I think it is naturally one of my best strokes without really thinking too much about it. I can swim a decent technical fly and I think it is just a fun race for me. I don't really get to do it a lot because we already have some good flyers on our team but when I get the chance I like to push it a little bit just because it's the only time I can swim it this season.



With NCAA `A' cut times for most of your events this year already what are you working on the most now?

Right now I'm just putting in some good hard work. We are leaving for Hawaii this Saturday and we are going to be there for two weeks and I'm assuming its just going to be hell in the water. So I'm just getting prepared for the end of the season.


Who pushes you the most on the team?

It's different people every day. Eric Nielson is a phenomenal trainer and when he is put next to me and we are in the same type of sets I think he defiantly pushes me extremely hard. He doesn't necessarily have a cocky attitude, but to me in the pool he does and that just inspires me. I think well I don't want this younger sophomore to beat me start talking trash. In sprint or IM sets Mike Alexander is always there pushing me as well.


Since stepping foot on campus you have been picking up awards and breaking records left and right; what are your goals for the rest of the year?

First, I have to figure out what races I'm going to swim at the NCAAs, but a closer meet and a closer goal is the Big Ten Championships. Our team wants to do well there to prove to ourselves that we have more depth this year and we aren't just three or four guys racing. Northwestern is a team now and a team to be dealt with.


Looking ahead in your schedule who are you looking forward to swimming against or what meet are you excited about?

One meet that I enjoyed a lot last year was the Dallas Morning News meet. It's kind of a warmer climate which makes it always nice to get away from Chicago. It's an exciting meet and the way the meet is set up it's perfect for our type of team. It's a fun meet with not a whole lot of pressure so you just go down there and swim your best.


You were recruited by top programs Texas, Arizona and California but ultimately decided to stay close to home. How hard was that decision?

It's something I had to talk to my parents about, but not because I'm a momma's boy. I think I am quite the opposite, but because I almost had to make them promise me that they wouldn't come up and visit me all the time. Now as a senior, I am really starting to appreciate living close to home. Freshman year, I don't think I went home more than the various holiday breaks. Now, if I get a flat tire or if I'm sick my mom will stop on by and give me some soup; just simple things that are nice and easy when you are close to home.


At the time of my decision I was still in high school and so it was a tough decision. Also I knew the winters here in Chicago and every time the cold weather comes around I wonder what I am doing here. All those teams that you mentioned were extremely close in my decision making but one thing Northwestern really had was the closeness of its team. It's a pretty small program and everyone is just really good friends and relies on each other. It's exactly the type of program I was looking for.


Do you have any superstitions or rituals before a meet?

I used to but I've gotten away from it. I used to play soothing music before I went to bed because I would just get so anxious before a big meet that I couldn't sleep. My ritual was just trying to get to sleep by listening to sounds of the ocean or waterfalls, anything that would help me go to sleep. Now, I've just gotten used to it. The only rituals I do now are eating healthy, going to bed early and staying loose. I stretch constantly. People catch me at the store randomly stretching.


What are your plans after graduation?

This next year I'm just going to hang out and try to find a swimming sponsor and see if I can make a living until 2008 if I'm still swimming. After that the question will kind of get harder to answer.





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