Oct. 20, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. -- In his third year as head coach, Jarod Schroeder is busy preparing the Wildcats to kick off the 2011-12 season this week when they face Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. CT, Friday, Oct. 21.
This first meet against the Eagles, a persistent power who have won 10 of the last 12 MAC championships, will prove to be a nonconference challenge. Schroeder is quite familiar with EMU, which he swam against as a student-athlete and future Hall of Famer at Northern Illinois.
The season opens Friday without the presence of two All-America swimmers, Alex Tyler and Sean Mathews. Their graduation leaves the door open for this year's roster to step up and lead. First and foremost on that list is junior Charlie Rimkus (Tustin, Calif./Beckman), who joined Tyler and Mathews at the NCAA meet last season. Rimkus was an NCAA qualifier in three events, earning his best finish with a 28th-place effort in the 1650 free. Rimkus ranked on Northwestern's top times list in five different events a year ago.
Talented youth on the team look to succeed this year, with sophomore Dominik Cubelic (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) leading the way. Cubelic turned it on during the latter half of his debut season in 2010-11, earning second swims in all three of his Big Ten Championships events while scoring points with a 10th-place finish in the 100 back.
Junior Varun Shivakumar (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd), who came to Northwestern as a raw 6-4 talent, found his stroke at the end of last year in the 200 back. He broke into the NU all-time top-five with an NCAA `B' performance during the prelims of that event at the Big Ten Championships, picking up a lane in the championship final of the race.
A junior who made an incredible leap at the end of last year and will be looking to build on that performance is distance freestyler Jan Hanulik (Cavisov, Czech Republic/Sportovni Gymnazium). In addition to carving out precipitous drops to all of his career-bests at the Big Ten Championships, Hanulik earned a consolation final berth in the 500 free to score points for the Wildcats.
Northwestern adds talented youth to its roster in the form of Collegeswimming.com's
21st-ranked recruiting class in the country -- and that ranking comes without factoring in a big-time transfer and a foreign breaststroker.
Freshman freestyler Matthew Margritier (Leawood, Kan./Rockhurst), who was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the state of Kansas by Collegeswimming.com, headlines this year's freshman class. He is joined by Australian back and fly sensation Mark Ferguson (Perth, Australia) and Pleasanton, Calif., freestyler Andrew Seitz (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley).
Uula Auren (Helsinki, Finland/Mäkelänrinteen Lukio) is a 6-2 freshman breaststroke specialist who holds a Finnish national record in the 200 medley relay. He competed with Atascadero High School in Atascadero, Calif., as an exchange student in 2008-09. Wildcat fans may remember the last foreign-born breaststroker to swim for Northwestern: 2007 NCAA breaststroke national champion and Bulgarian Olympian Mike Alexandrov (who now competes internationally as an American).
Talented transfer Toni Valcic (Ribnica, Slovenia/Gimnazija Ledina) also joins the mix after coming to Northwestern following two seasons at NCAA Division II University of Bridgeport, where he earned 10 total All-America honors while leading the team to a sixth-place national finish last year. Valcic also won two 2011 DII National Championships, and will make his debut as a DI swimmer at Friday's season opener.
Northwestern first home meet is Nov. 11 vs. Wisconsin.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook! and subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter to receive the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!