Sept. 4, 2008
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Athleticism swims through the blood of Ashley Dell, a senior at the University of Iowa. Dell will use her experience to not only push past the collegiate competition, but also to shoulder a leadership load during the 2008-09 season.
Dell, an elementary education major, is a product of Lake Forest, Ill., and a second generation Hawkeye swimmer. As a prep, she helped the Lake Forest High School program to four conference and two state championships while earning two individual all-conference selections. The freestyle star has played an enormous role for the Hawkeyes, and the UI, in turn, has been a good fit for Dell as she has become one of four captains for the swimming and diving team.
“I was looking at a bunch of schools and took recruiting trips to a few of them, including Iowa,” Dell said. “After the first day there I pretty much knew that was where I would end up going to school. I really liked the coaches and I got along with them very well. One of the most important things is that I really liked the team atmosphere and how the whole team got along. You could really sense that the swimming program was heading in the right direction.”
Dell has enjoyed her time at Iowa and looks to leave it in better shape than when she arrived. A teammate from the Iowa men’s swimming and diving team, sophomore Conor Dwyer, grew up in Winnetka, Ill., and is from the same swim club in Illinois as Dell. Head coach Marc Long compares the two with very similar distinctions in both their positive mental approach as well as leadership skills.
“I recruited Ashley and Conor on physical talent,” said Long, who is going into his fifth season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. “We saw potential in both of them. I would say out of high school, they were great high school swimmers, but not necessarily at the Big Ten level. We felt that their attitude and work ethic and the way they treated the aspect of team would fit perfectly with what we were trying to do. Because of their work ethic and determination, they have seen great time drops and are competing at the highest levels of the Big Ten.
“They want to leave the place better than it was when they got here, so it is kind of a selfless attitude. They will be very successful, not only in swimming, but beyond, because of their attitudes and hard work.”
“My parents were a big influence on me. I wasn’t necessarily the best swimmer throughout middle school and junior high, but my mom kept giving me positive thoughts and made me feel confident. Both of my parents were such big supporters. Finally in high school I started to improve and they were always pushing me to succeed and they have always supported me my whole life.”
UI senior Ashley Dell
Dell has progressively improved from year to year and she looks to continue that trend during her final senior hurrah. Her responsibilities this season are expected to go beyond swimming, with attention to leadership. She will team up with Dwyer as two of the four captains to lead the Hawkeyes this year.
“It has been a very steady progression for Ashley and now she will be a senior,” Long said. “She had her NCAA provisional time last season.
“They are both leaders by example: quiet, hardworking, determined and very matter-of-fact, which I like as a coach. Both of them have similar characteristics. They are both exceptional leaders and athletes. They have shown a tireless work ethic and determination and I have seen great time drops.”
Dell is following in the footsteps of her mother to Iowa, who also competed as a Hawkeye swimmer. Her father Chip excelled as a rugby player at Illinois State. Dell has had her share of success in more than one sport as she also played on the lacrosse team in high school. Swimming was not the only state title she won in high school. Dell also led her lacrosse team to a state championship in 2004. She was a two-year letterwinner in that sport.
“My parents were a big influence on me,” Dell said. “I wasn’t necessarily the best swimmer throughout middle school and junior high, but my mom kept giving me positive thoughts and made me feel confident. Both of my parents were such big supporters. Finally in high school I started to improve and they were always pushing me to succeed and they have always supported me my whole life.”
“You do see swimming families, but in her case I think it helps because she has a perspective of what it is like to compete at this level just growing up,” Long said.
Dell competes in the freestyle events and has continuously delivered in crunch time. Some of her best times came during the 2008 Big Ten Championships in the 200 free (1:53.58), 500 free (4:53.69) and 1,650 free (16:45.29). Her times are some of the finest at the UI. She ranks fifth all-time in the 500 and 1,650 free events and seventh in the 1,000 free (set against Michigan State in 2007). During the Ohio State Invitational, she had her best time in the 100 (55.56) which she also accomplished in 2007.
“My best event is probably the 1,650 or the mile,” Dell said. “It is the longest one in college and I am a distance swimmer, so that is my best. I also like the 500 and 1,000 as well. I like swimming against the University of Illinois and Michigan State the most. During my freshman and sophomore seasons we lost to Illinois at our dual meet and Big Ten. My junior year we were able to beat them in the dual meet and Big Ten and we had an awesome year last year against Michigan State as well.”
“Knowing that the Big Ten Championship is at the end of the season, it is pretty much what you have worked for all season,” Dell added. “I think it is one of the most exciting meets and it is really easy to get yourself pumped up for it knowing how hard you worked and how it is all going to pay off. The environment there is so great for any swimmer to do well.”
Dell will look to use her artillery of athleticism, determination and hard work to lead the Hawkeyes to a memorable finish in 2008.