The DePauw men’s swim team will open up its season tomorrow at Washington University in St. Louis hoping for another winning season, now in a new conference. The Tigers finished with an impressive 7-0 record last season in dual meets, taking the SCAC title for the seventh straight season. The team graduated a few seniors but welcomed an impressive freshman class this year. Head coach Adam Cohen said despite the lost experience, the team is still on track for another winning season.
“I don’t think we have missed a beat this year,” Cohen said. “The seniors from last year set us up for this season. We have some great senior leadership this year with some really great sophomores and freshmen that will likely step up to the challenge.”
The sophomore class has added something to the mix as well.
“The heart and soul of this team is our sophomore class,” Cohen said. “They’re a group of incredible athletes and friends. They are in that transition phase ready to step forward and lead this team.”
Junior Matt Kukurugya finished an impressive eighth in the NCAA Div. III national meet last year for the 100-yard breaststroke. Kukurugya dealt with shoulder problems last season and was faced with the decision to finish last season or get surgery due to a torn labrum. Kukurugya finished the season fighting rigorous pain that eventually paid off at the national meet.
“He finished eighth in nationals last year, and about two weeks after the season he had surgery,” Cohen said. “Normally for this surgery we expect full recovery to take about 8 months. He is back in the pool swimming, and we expect that he will compete Saturday, despite the pain he is still struggling through.”
A new assistant coach was hired this year to improve the team’s distance swimming abilities. Assistant coach Nathan Smith was a three-time national champion at Kenyon College and brings a fresh perspective to the team. The team has renewed focus on distance swimming in order to better its overall diversity of ability.
With the switch to the NCAC, the Tigers face a new challenge in arguably one of the best men’s swimming conferences in the nation. Kenyon College won 31 straight national championships before Denison University won last year’s meet by one point.
“We are going into a conference with the best two teams for over the last decade in the United States, and that’s what we are going to compete with,” Cohen said. “In men’s swimming there is no conference like the NCAC there is no conference faster or deeper. That is the reality we face, and we need to rise to the challenge, we have to refocus goals and go up against some of the best swimmers in the nation in the conference season.”
The team will begin its season tomorrow at Washington University in St. Louis before the opening conference meet on November 5 at Wittenberg College.