It’s hard to top the feat of winning all seven events you swim in at the biggest meet of the year, but Franklin College sophomore Artur Schneider has found a way.
The native of Switzerland was named Swimmer of the Meet at last month’s NCAA Liberal Arts Championship, an important meet on the Division III competitive landscape. Schneider took first place in the 200-yard individual medley, 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke and 100 freestyle events; plus he was as a member of three relay teams.
He accomplished the same feats last season.
But Schneider managed to improve on greatness, shaving seconds off his times in the events and qualifying for the 100 backstroke event at the NCAA Division III meet scheduled for later this month in Texas. By virtue of qualifying, Schneider could select two other events to compete in at the nationals. He plans to race in the 200 backstroke and the 100 freestyle, both of which he provisionally qualified for based on time.
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The improvement on an already strong performance is not a fluke. It’s the result of commitment to the training regimen designed for him by Franklin head coach Andy Hendricks.
“Artur is strong mentally, and the mental side of swimming is huge,” Hendricks said. “But as he’s transitioned to our style of training, his physical side has grown as well. He’s bigger and stronger, and his stroke has improved from last year.”
For Schneider, the drive to succeed has increased this year. When he returned home last May for summer break, it was only his studies that ceased. His weight- training routine and conditioning work in the pool increased.
Along with a stringent nutritional plan, Hendricks had Schneider work more with weights and also in doing intense, aerobic-style swims, which is swimming at somewhat less than a sprinter’s pace for longer distances.
The commitment to working with weights raised some eyebrows back home, Hendricks said, because European swimming doesn’t feature that type of training as much. But his times continued to improve, and he won his first Swiss national championship as part a 200-meter freestyle relay team.
When he returned to Franklin in August, he had gone from a freshman-year weight of 155 pounds to 175, and all the growth was muscle. He also began working with a sports psychologist to improve his performance in big meets.
“I knew I would get nervous sometimes in big meets and sometimes felt I didn’t perform as well as I should have. I kept a journal about concerns, problems and progress I am making. (The psychologist) would have me do mental exercises to help focus and relax at big moments. Now I focus on the actual swim instead of the outcome, like whether I will make a national qualifying time. You do better if you don’t think about the pressure but think about what you can do and how you can do it,” he said.
Schneider and Hendricks agree the swimmer has a shot at a national championship. The span separating the top 16 qualifiers in the 100 backstroke, for which Schneider is the eight-fastest, is 1.05 seconds.
“It’s a simple matter of 16 swimmers going down and back, down and back. Whoever gets his hand on the wall first wins. So who wants it bad enough,” Hendricks said.
While he’s done a lot to put Franklin swimming on the national map and boost its recruiting fortunes, Schneider said he is motivated by the opportunity to replay Hendricks and the program for the time and effort invested in his success.
“If I can walk away with a medal, it would definitely be a way of giving Franklin and coach Hendricks something back. That’s my goal,” he said.