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Northwestern men’s swimming and diving wins Purdue Invitational, women finish second

The Wildcats won 23 of the 42 contested events.

Mary Grace Grabill/Northwestern Athletics

As Northwestern football took down Purdue for bowl eligibility, the Wildcats’ swimming and diving team traveled to West Lafayette this past weekend to compete at the 2023 Purdue Invitational. This competition served as the team’s mid-season invite, which is typically the first time during the college swimming season that athletes go all-out and put up season-best times.

The men placed first overall with 1082 points — 155 points ahead of Purdue, a team that notably finished in front of Northwestern at the 2023 Big Ten Championships. Meanwhile, the women finished in second place with 784 points — 353 points behind Purdue. In total, Northwestern won 23 out of the 42 contested events.

Here are some of the main highlights from Nortwestern’s midseason performance.

Spitz continues to be the team’s best female swimmer

Out of all the Northwestern swimmers who competed this past weekend, graduate student Ayla Spitz was the only one who posted times that would contend with the best swimmers in the nation. The transfer from California won the 500 freestyle (4:40.25), 200 freestyle (1:44.81) and 200 backstroke (1:53.48), with all three performances outdoing her midseason performances from the last four years in the same events.

Spitz didn’t achieve any personal best times in these three swims, but they were still formidable. Her 500 free time would have been fast enough to finish 11th at the 2023 NCAA Championships, while her 200 free and back times are both near NCAA-scoring territory (at NCAAs, the top 16 finishers score points). She also contributed to Northwestern’s 400/800 free and 200/400 medley relays. While leading off the 400 medley relay, she set a personal record (52.56) by over a second in the 100 back.

Currently, Spitz is ranked 19th in the NCAA for the 500 free, 24th in the 200 back and 13th in the 200 back.

Considering that she was the only female swimmer to post a time remotely close to NCAA qualification at this meet, it’s evident that Spitz is going to be the face of the depleted Northwestern women’s team this season. But she’s looked better than she has in her entire career at midseasons, so she’s clearly capable of doing the heavy lifting.

Nosack breaks 18-year-old program record

On Friday night, first-year Diego Nosack won the 400 individual medley by over seven seconds, posting a personal best time of 3:44.52. He shaved 0.25 off his previous best and took down Mike Alexandrov’s program record time of 3:45.57 set back in 2005.

Coming into college, Nosack’s personal best was already faster than Alexandrov’s former record, so the fact that he broke it in college isn’t all that surprising. In addition, Alexandrov wasn’t exactly known for being an IMer in college, specializing more in breaststroke events. However, this doesn’t make Nosack’s accomplishment any less special. He still managed to beat a mark that no Northwestern swimmer had touched for 18 years, and he smashed it by over a second.

Nosack also won the 200 IM (1:45.76) and placed second in the 200 fly (1:44.56), setting a personal best time by 0.05 in the latter event.

Martin and Grechik Post Massive Swims

Graduate student Andrew Martin and first-year David Grechik both had major breakout swims at this meet, improving significantly on their personal best times.

Martin, a transfer from Xavier, had a big race in the 1650 free, where he jumped from a best time of 15:04.12 to 14:58.19. He’s currently ranked 14th in the NCAA (the highest event ranking out of any Northwestern male swimmer) and is one of the 16 men who have gone under 15 minutes in the 1650 free. He is now just over four seconds away from what it took to qualify for the NCAA Championships in this event.

Martin also won the 500 free (4:19.59) and 200 free (1:37.27) in season-best times.

Grechik, meanwhile, shined in backstroke. He posted a 46.73 to finish second in the 100 back and then went 1:41.92 to win the 200 back by over a second. He improved over a second off his best in the former event and nearly nine seconds in the latter, but these big drops make sense considering that he’s an international student from Israel and has never competed in the NCAA yards format before this season.

In the 200 backstroke, Grechik is ranked 25th in the NCAA but first in the Big Ten (that being said, three-time 200 back Big Ten champ Brendan Burns didn’t race the event during midseasons). Coming into the season, Northwestern had a group of backstrokers in a similar time range, but it’s clear that Grechik is the top one.

Duncan and Seymour record promising relay splits

First-years Cade Duncan and Stuart Seymour posted two of the best relay performances from the Wildcats during this meet, with Duncan recording a 100 free relay split time of 41.86 on the 400 medley relay and Seymour going a 19.35 50 freestyle on the 200 free relay.

Duncan’s 41.86 was the first sub-42 relay split recorded by any Wildcat since Kyle Bubolz’s 41.92 from the 2008 NCAA Championships. He is also now the second-fastest Northwestern 100 freestyle relay performer of all time behind Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers, who has been as fast as 41.41 before back in 2005.

Northwestern men’s sprinting, especially in the 100 freestyle, has been extremely weak ever since its 2005-2007 “glory era” with Grevers, Bubolz, Alexandrov, and co. passed. However, the fact that the Wildcats have a swimmer, let alone a freshman, who is capable of going sub-42 is a good sign for the future.

Seymour’s relay split was extremely unexpected, given that his best time in the 50 freestyle off a flat start is 21.17—over two seconds slower than his split time. He wasn’t put on the ‘A’ relay for the 200 free and medley relay, but he swam faster than any Wildcat in the 50 freestyle at this invite.

Individually, Duncan placed sixth in the 50 free (20.04), second in the 100 free (42.80) and third in the 200 free (1:36.69). His 100 free time was a personal best by 0.05, and he also set a best time of 1:36.03 in the preliminary heats of the 200 free. Seymour placed ninth in the 100 back (48.01), sixth in the 200 back (1:46.11) and third in the 100 fly (47.32), with his 100 fly time being the best time.

Other highlights

  • First-year Maggie Paponicholas won both the women’s 100 (1:00.80) and 200 breast (2:12.09) events, with the latter time being a personal best. She also went a personal best of 1:00.76 in the prelims of the 100 breast.
  • Second-year Lindsay Ervin swept the sprint freestyle events on the women’s side, touching the wall first in the 50 (22.62) and 100 free (49.03).
  • Graduate student Kevin Houseman won the men’s 100 breast (52.43), while second-year Matthew Lucky emerged victorious in the 200 breast (1:56.60). Houseman’s time has him ranked 20th in the nation and fourth in the Big Ten behind a trio of Indiana swimmers.
  • First-year Adam Cohen was Northwestern’s sole diving event winner, taking the 10-meter dive with a score of 298.55.
  • The Northwestern women won every single relay except for the 200 free relay, while the men won both the 400 and 800 free relay.

What’s next?

The Wildcats will head to the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 to race in long course meters, which differs from the short course yards format that they compete in during NCAA competitions. Their next NCAA meet will come against DIII UChicago on Jan. 13.