Two of the standouts on the Franklin College men’s swimming and diving team admit they had never heard of Franklin, Ind., when they were growing up.
But Alexey Bariyev and Artur Schneider are glad they are here now.
Bariyev is a sophomore from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Schneider, a freshman, hails from Zurich, Switzerland.
Both swimmers are on the dean’s list at the college. Both are record-setting swimmers at the school and major reasons why the program has risen to NCAA Division III national prominence in just its fifth year as an interscholastic sport.
Franklin was one of hundreds of schools that Bariyev wrote after consulting an online college search service.
Once the connection was made, Grizzlies coach Andy Hendricks saw the potential the Ukrainian could do for the burgeoning program and helped make it all work in terms of academics, finance and logistics.
Schneider utilized a European recruiting service that helped make the match, and again Hendrick shepherded the entire process to its conclusion.
The Bariyev File
Name: Alexey Bariyev
Home: Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Major: Computer science
Favorite event: 200-meter backstroke
Favorite swimmer: James Magnuson
Next-favorite sport: Basketball
Favorite food: Chinese
Favorite movie: “Forrest Gump”
The Schneider File
Name: Artur Schneider
Home: Zurich, Switzerland
Major: Biology (pre-med)
Favorite event: 100-meter backstroke
Favorite swimmer: Nathan Adrian
Next-favorite sport: Tennis
Favorite food: Italian
Although Hendricks doesn’t go out of his way to recruit internationally, he welcomed Bariyev and Schneider because they met the two most important demands for the program: Both are strong student-athletes, in that order.
“For me it has worked out with Artur and Alex, but (internationally) a lot more don’t work out than do,” Hendricks said. “I don’t aggressively recruit internationally. I’ve talked to five potential student-athletes in the five years we’ve been here, and we have two of the five.”
Both swimmers credit Hendricks for making their overseas college swimming experience especially rewarding.
“Coach Hendricks is like a father for the team. He helped me to fit in,” Schneider said. “It only took me a few weeks to where I didn’t feel homesick anymore. I felt included really fast.
“The team was awesome and helped me with everything.”
Bariyev echoed the sentiment.
“All credit goes to coach. It’s amazing what he’s done in four years since he came here,” he said. “He pushes us every day and really knows what he is doing.”
For his part, Hendricks has enjoyed helping Bariyev and Schneider adjust not only to the complexities of life as college students, but to the nuances of life in America as well. There is, after all, more to the process than meets they eye.
“It has gone from helping them get Social Security numbers, to driver’s licenses to everything you would think of when you take them to shop at Walmart for the first time,” Hendricks said “Alex showed up with one suitcase of everything he owned.
“Artur had a little bit better understanding because his father had traveled abroad more, plus he had Alex as almost a mentor since he had come the year before.”
Bariyev, who is majoring in computer science and is fluent in Ukrainian, Russian and English, specializes in freestyle sprints and backstroke. He holds the school record in the 50-meter freestyle and is part of three school-record relays.
Schneider is a pre-med major (biology) and speaks German, French, Italian and English. He holds school records in five individual events and four relays and provisionally qualified for the NCAA Division III championship. But a complex placement system involving teams who qualify for relay events getting first chance at a limited number of slots at the meet kept him from actually making the postseason field.
On the team front, Franklin rose to national prominence this season, cracking the top 35 rankings nationally for the first time and capping the season by winning last month’s Liberal Arts Championship, a de facto league championship meet for Division III schools in Midwestern conferences.
Bariyev said one of his earliest and longest-lasting impressions about life in Franklin was formed by an experience he had after walking across town to a store.
“I didn’t have a car back then. I had walked all the way to Kohl’s because I needed some clothes or something,” he said. “There was this woman who saw me walking back. When she saw I had passed the parking lot she assumed I didn’t have a car, so she just stopped and offered me a ride.
“That’s when I learned how nice people can be here.”
Schneider said training methods are quite different under Hendricks than with his previous coaches in Switzerland, and he believes this has been a major factor in his success.
“I had coaches who had a strict idea of what practice should look like,” he said. “From (age) 12 to 15, I had one coach and basically had the same practices over and over again, with the same style. Then my coach changed and had his style all the time. Coach Hendricks, it seems to me, tries more stuff.
“We do more endurance stuff out of the pool, and inside the pool we do so many different things. It makes me feel I’m becoming much better as a swimmer.”
Among the training techniques mentioned by both swimmers are weight resistance machines tethered to the swimmers in the water; dry land training; and doing knee bends while carrying weights.
Bariyev and Schneider also enjoy the team aspect of college competition.
“For me, swimming used to be an individual sport,” Bariyev said. “My views on that have changed dramatically since I came here, just from being part of this team. I’ve never been a part of something like that. I never swam a relay.
“Before I wouldn’t care if I lost if I swam my best time, but now it’s different. You understand why it’s a team sport. You might not think so, but I can tell you for sure that it is.”
Schneider will tell you the same thing.
“Back home you’re just swimming for yourself. Your parents might be there, and they know you want to swim this or that time. Then it’s over, and no one basically cares,” Schneider said. “Here, you are a team. Alex and I had the 200 backstroke final together (at the Liberal Arts meet), and the whole team was supporting us. You walk out and feel that support.
“It’s crazy how much of a team we’ve become in a short time. It’s so much easier to swim a fast race when 40 men and women are screaming for you.”
Bariyev, who talks with his family every day and said he is not dwelling on the recent tensions in Ukraine, is less concerned about his individual success than he is on the growth of the program. He is proud to be among the Grizzlies’ pioneers.
“I know it sounds cocky, but I want to see what our legacy will be,” Bariyev said. “Even our freshmen now don’t understand what we’ve done. Last year winning a gold medal (at the Liberal Arts meet) was a big deal for us. This year Artur alone won seven.
“We are enjoying watching the team continuing to grow.”