By Shane Carney, The Gazette
IOWA CITY– The pool is calm and the stands are quiet as senior swimmer Ryan Phelan walks into the U of I’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. Tuesday, Phelan made final preparations for the Big Ten Championships in an atmosphere allowing him to stay calm and focused.
Wednesday and through the weekend, that atmosphere is certain to dramatically escalate. A type of atmosphere that has been absent to the Iowa campus since 1982.
“It does get loud in here, which is great,” said Phelan. “Obviously it is fuel to go out there and perform your best.”
The Hawkeye men’s swim team (7-2, 5-1) is excited to be hosting this year’s Big Ten Championships. The Hawks, ranked No. 14 in the nation, have hopes that with the home pool advantage they will be able to improve on a 7th place finish in the 2011 championships held in Minneapolis.
Along with Iowa, four other Big Ten schools enter the championships ranked in the top 25. Michigan is ranked No. 4, Ohio State No. 9, Minnesota is ranked No. 16, and Purdue comes in at No. 17.
Ryan Phelan will be a big part of his team’s success this week, competing individually in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle and multiple relays.
“He is able to really focus and work the fine details,” said Iowa Coach Marc Long. “He has worked in the weight room, dry land, and getting down technique.”
Phelan’s work ethic has rubbed off on to his teammates just as it did while competing at the high school level. In 2008, Phelan lead his Cedar Rapids Washington team to a state title.
As he thought about his next step into collegiate swimming, it was easy for him to make the decision to compete close to home and try to help an Iowa program that had struggled for direction.
Phelan and his fellow seniors have been able to get the once proud program back on track, posting a 34-6 duel meet record during their four years.
“I talked to (Duncan) Partridge and said we should go try to do something special here,” said Phelan. “Then met Paul Gordon and we all meshed really well. We knew we were going to hopefully make an impact here at Iowa, leave it better than what it was when we got here.”
“I think, I hope we have done that.”
This week sets up for what could be a tremendous end to Phelan’s exceptional Big Ten career. Despite his individual achievements, Phelan simply wants to put up as many points as he can for his team.
“I’m not going for records or times. Just get to that wall first, that’s the real goal.”