Though he had been at the Division III Championships the year before, junior captain Jesse Novak knew this time around was different.
Not only would he look to defend his individual championships, he would also compete with a relay team, the first for Rowan at nationals since 2012. The Profs had five different relay groups, and eight athletes in total, headed to Greensboro, North Carolina, from March 16-19.
“We wanted to prove we belonged,” Novak said.
In that respect, Rowan put forth a strong effort as four of the five relays earned national recognition, led by the 4×200 freestyle relay taking All-America honors. Novak also left as an All-American on the individual level in both the 50 and 100 freestyles.
“For the relays, we were trying to enjoy [the meet] a little bit,” Novak said. “It was the first time in a little bit that Rowan has sent a relay team, and we wanted to prove we belonged. We had put so much stress into just getting there, so we were just trying to represent Rowan as best as possible.”
“Individually, I tried to just go in and swim my times. It was what I did and wanted to do.”
The captain joined fellow juniors Anthony Czar and Nick Marks and sophomore Eric Feuerstein in the 4×200 free, finishing eighth in 1:22.24.
He also swam a leg of the 400 freestyle, 400 medley and 200 medley relays, which all picked up All-America honorable mention over the four days of competition.
Additionally, the 400 freestyle and 400 medley posted university records. The 400 free team of Novak, Marks, Czar and Feuerstein finished in 3:01.61 (12th place), while the 400 medley team of freshman Joe Furze and juniors Paul Long, Marks and Novak had a best time of 3:19.60 in the preliminaries.
Though Novak picked up All-America recognition in the 50 and 100 freestyles, he was unable to retain his titles in either. Novak took third in the 50 (19.89 seconds) on Wednesday, March 16, then second in the 100 (43.78 seconds) on Saturday, March 19.
His prelim time of 1:40.98 in the 200 freestyle was a Rowan record.
“I came in this year with high goals, and this is the first year in a while I can say I didn’t 100 percent fulfill them,” Novak said. “This year served as great learning experience. Being set as the guy everyone is chasing at meets was new to me, but looking at this next year, all that pressure will get lifted off my shoulders and I’ll be able to preform great again.”
As the only qualifying Rowan diver, junior John Morris earned All-America honorable mentions in both the one and three-meter dives.
“Getting honorable mentions on both boards was definitely a goal I set to accomplish,” Morris said. “It feels good to know that I did just that, and that I also got to score some points for the team.”
Morris jumped up 10 spots on the three-meter board from a season ago, 20th in 2015 to 10th this season, and matched a 12th-place finish in the one-meter. He was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference Diver of the Week for the eighth time this season following the championship meet, where Rowan placed 11th out of 57 teams.
“Compared to last year, I competed a lot better in every meet, and I was more prepared day in and day out,” Morris said. “The biggest takeaway, this season, was that I got the bigger and more difficult dives that I have been wanting to do since freshman year, done. I started to compete in the big meets that I’ve always wanted to compete in, and I competed well.”
With their minds already set for next season, Novak stated the biggest objective for both he and Morris.
“Try to keep getting better. Keep working. We aren’t going to chase times, we are going to chase titles,” he said.
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