Hitting the books

Swimmers’ study habits pay off in classroom and pool
Friday, January 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:16 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

When the five seniors on Missouri men’s swimming and diving team were named to the Academic All-Big 12 Conference team last year, it was no surprise to coach Brain Hoffer.

“We have a couple of guys that if they don’t make a 4.0 (grade point average) we’re surprised,” Hoffer said. “They’re a lot more than just swimmers.”

They study for more than their classes, too.

Chris Musfeldt, a senior co-captain, is a student of swimming. The breaststroke is his favorite subject.

“He’s kind of like a coach,” junior Matt North said. “He studies a lot on the stroke I do, the breaststroke, and he’ll throw tapes my way about technique.”

Musfeldt said he watches tapes of himself and of world class breaststroke swimmers. He looks for ways he can improve his swimming and then compares it to those at the top of his sport.

“Also, I’ve watched videos from other coaches from around the world about their theories on swimming and the breaststroke,” Musfeldt said.

North, another of the Tigers’ returning Academic All-Big 12 swimmers, has qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100-yard breaststroke. Earlier in the year, against Truman State, he set an MU Natatorium record in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2 minutes, 3.14 seconds.

The Tigers (1-6) take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-3) at 5 p.m. today at the MU Natatorium in their final dual meet. North hopes to set a MU Natatorium record in the 100-yard breaststroke at the meet. He needs to swim faster than 57.04.

“I’ve done the time a few times already this year,” North said. “I just haven’t done it in this pool.”

North set the Southern Illinois pool record in the 100 breaststroke in 55.43, bringing him near former Tigers swimmer Mike Tucker’s school record of 54.23. Tucker’s record is likely to fall in the postseason though, because the shallowness of the pool in the MU Natatorium makes for slower sprint times.

“We don’t usually have guys breaking records during season,” senior co-captain Tyler Belanger said. “It usually happens in conference.”

Belanger knows about breaking school records. His freshman year he helped set the school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a 3:00.52 at the Big 12 Championships.

Musfeldt shares North’s goal of breaking the pool record in the 100-yard breaststroke.

“I think it would be kind of cool if we both one-twoed the event both under the pool record time.” Musfeldt said.

Musfeldt has the fifth-fastest time in the 200-yard breaststroke at 2:05.05.

“I am very excited about being on the list, however I hope to be higher on that list,” Musfeldt said.North said he has benefited from the atmosphere that Musfeldt, Belanger and fellow seniors Stephen Darmitzel, Dustin McKnight and Eric Sullins have helped establish in and around the pool.

“We push each other a lot in practice,” North said. “But pushing each other in swimming abilities is different from pushing each other with encouragement. We get pumped up for each other and cheer for each other.”

Musfeldt said: “Swimming is an individual sport so one of the key aspects … is to get that team atmosphere there. You really want to make sure that everyone is really cohesive and that the team has good synergy.”

For sophomore divers Evan Watters and Aaron Wionzek, synergy is a goal they must accomplish as a two-man team. Watters, a three-time Big 12 Diver of the Month, said having a teammate such as Wionzek, who finished sixth at the Canadian Nationals this summer, makes him better.

“Without a senior there we’ve really had to push each other,” Watters said. “You’ve got to push yourself like you’re going to be competing against conference champions.”

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