Dec. 27, 2012
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, 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 2012-13 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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior Emily Hovren has goal sheets posted in her locker, bathroom, and scattered across her apartment desk. For Hovren, they are a starting point; she doesn’t want to set limits.
“There are times I am shooting for, but something I have learned is not to have expectations,” said Hovren. “Expect to do your best and that gives you confidence. If you start saying I have to go these times or else, you’re putting more of the time in your head, and the clock, instead of going out and racing.
“If you put yourself at a time, you’re stopping yourself, saying that’s as fast as you want to go. Whereas if I say I want to go under two minutes… how far under two minutes? There are no limitations.”
The racing-to-win a philosophy is one that UI head coach Marc Long preaches, and the approach is paying dividends for Hovren.
“We try not to talk about times too much, we try to talk about competing,” said Long. “That sounds silly, people are always racing the clock. This is a sporting event, you’re racing yourself and the competition and the times will follow.
“She is grasping that now and is stepping up and really feeling like she can race with anybody, and that’s what we want.”
The mentality paid off when Hovren posted an Olympic Trials qualifying time at the end of her sophomore season. She used the experience in Omaha, Neb., to her advantage, and Long has seen a new swimmer on the deck inside the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center pool since.
“She’s walking around differently,” said Long. “The Olympic Trials experience is in a basketball arena, you’re in front of 13,000 people — a very exciting environment — and you get to see all these celebrity-type swimmers you’ve grown up with and she’s there racing with them. That is something that pays off, and we’re seeing that pay off now.”
On Nov. 2 at Minnesota — in the second dual meet of her junior season — Hovren broke the 1:50-mark in the 200-yard freestyle for the first time in her career, swimming a personal best time of 1:49.85. She also posted a top time in the 200-yard individual medley at the Hawkeye Invitational, touching the wall in 2:02.47. The time is tops on the team.
Hovren credits her early-season time drops with the work she put in during the offseason.
“I had a really good strength program this summer,” said Hovren. “I stayed in town and dedicated myself to getting stronger and putting forth every effort. I was able to believe in myself when I stepped onto those blocks. I knew I did everything I needed to, I believed in my training and felt ready to go.”
Hovren is using her times as a stepping stone toward bigger things; she’s shooting for the NCAA Championships.
“I want to make an NCAA presence, that’s on top of everybody’s mind,” said Hovren. “The top of the pyramid is what everybody shoots for.”
Hovren has been in the pool her entire life. She started swimming lessons at 18 months old and began swimming competitively at the age of five. She made her first appearance at a state club meet when she was seven years old.
Hovren had a breakout sophomore season at University High School in Normal, Ill., which opened her eyes to the fact that she could swim collegiately. The summer before her junior year her recruiting started taking off.
“We noticed her in high school, and she had great swims, and in the summer, we saw her 200 IM, and knew she had potential,” said Long. “But we knew she had to get stronger. I am proud of how hard she has worked with strength training and her ability to compete has grown drastically. We knew she had the shell of a great swimmer, and she’s showing that now.”
Hovren filled out an online questionnaire for Iowa, and shortly thereafter, received a recruiting letter before the Iowa coaches even knew she had sent something in. She was interested in the Hawkeyes, and Iowa had a mutual liking.
“I came on visits to Iowa, and the second time, I just knew,” said Hovren. “I came on an unofficial visit in September, and I wanted to commit right away. I was one of the first people in my class to commit.”
Hovren contributed as a freshman and made an impact on the relays. She was part of the 400-medley relay that set a school record and posted an NCAA “B” qualifying time at the Big Ten Championships. As a sophomore, the times continued dropping, as she posted personal bests in three events at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in Iowa City.
“Emily has shown great progress throughout these years,” said Long. “She was an exciting swimmer out of high school that has improved her strength, competitiveness, and has grown so much. We’ve felt like she can compete with anybody for a while, and now she’s realizing that. It has been fun to watch, and she has an exciting two years (left) here.”
With Hovren and the Hawkeyes’ top times dropping, the team is positioning itself for a move in the Big Ten Conference standings.
“We have to keep digging hard, going for it, and putting forth our best effort all the time,” said Hovren. “That’s the next step, and we’re getting there. We’re seeing great times, and we’re starting to chip away at the times that it takes to be better in the Big Ten and move up.” As team expectations grow, Hovren takes it upon herself to be a leader for a Hawkeye team that features 20 underclassmen.
“I want to be a leader by example,” she said. “I try to put forth my best effort at practices and be encouraging. I feel like when others see that, it makes them work harder and be the best they can be. We’re just scratching the surface, and the leadership is pouring out of everybody.”
Long says Hovren’s confidence in the pool has given her greater leadership responsibilities.
“Her leadership is coming along as she has more confidence in her athletic ability,” said Long. “We have such a young team; it is invaluable to the coaching staff to have a leader emerging.”
The Hawkeyes return to action Jan. 19 at Illinois beginning at 11 a.m. (CT).