Oct. 23, 2014
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 4, 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 2014-15 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 JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa freshman men’s swimmer Jerzy Twarowski is adjusting to more than a new country and culture in his first season as a Hawkeye.
The Krakow, Poland, native is learning on the fly in his butterfly events because he is transitioning to a short-yard course for the first time in his career. He grew up competing on long-course meters.
The short-course distance is 25-yards in length; the long-course is 50-meters in distance. A 25-yard course translates to 22.86 meters.
“It’s one stroke less and everything is different,” said Twarowski. “There are different kicks, different strokes, the wall is closer… everything has to be adjusted.”
It is an on-going process, but one that UI head coach Marc Long is confident Twarowski can overcome to succeed.
“We know there is transition that has to happen, but our hope is he can be an NCAA scorer,” said Long. “He has excelled at the long-course meters, which is Olympic length, but we compete in a short-course yards environment.
“Right off the bat, it is going to be getting used to a yards setting, so your turns and transitions might be a little off. We have been working on that, and we need to work on it when he’s racing, but we expect him to be a big contributor.”
Twarowski got his start in swimming as a fourth-grader, courtesy of his mother, Karina. She was an active swimmer and wanted her son to follow.
“She wanted me to swim because it’s healthy, and she had done it,” said Twarowski. “She knew it was useful and important.”
“Our expectation is he will be contributing as an All-American. Our school record is held by a former Polish swimmer (Szukala). It has been a number of years ago, but it’s our hope that he can break that school record as well.”
UI head coach Marc Long on Twarowski
Twarowski started off in a small pool in Krakow, where he competed for three years. He moved to another facility — competing for SMS Krakow — where he spent the next six years and developed into one of the top butterfly swimmers in Poland.
Competing as a member of the Polish Junior National Team, Twarowski was a multiple gold medalist in international junior competitions. He won the gold at the winter and summer Polish Junior Championships three-straight years and was a finalist at the World Junior Championship in Dubai.
“I gained a lot of experience as part of the Polish National Team, swimming at a lot of international meets,” said Twarowski. “I learned a lot and I know what I can improve in my training and competing. It is helpful to be on an international team and compete internationally. It was a big advantage.”
Long and assistant coach/international recruiting coordinator Nathan Mundt found Twarowski early, and when they learned he was open to continuing his swimming career in the United States, they pounced.
“Over the years you develop connections, and Iowa has a strong connection to Poland,” said Long. “With the Internet, you can find out a lot about people. We found out about him early and made contact. He’s a driven student and an excellent athlete, and Nathan did an excellent job of working with him through the process.”
When Twarowski arrived in Iowa City in August, it was his first time in the United States. Everything he had seen and heard came through contact with Mundt and via the Internet.
“I had a good contact with Nathan, and I really like this place,” he said. “There is some energy here that is powerful and made me come here.”
During his first two weeks on campus, Twarowski went through the normal adjustments in finding his way from class-to-class and around campus. He latched on to fellow international student David Ernstsson, a junior from Sweden.
“I have to thank David,” said Twarowski. “He knows how the process works and how it is to come here. He has helped me a lot with my adjusting.”
Twarowski had what Long calls a “welcome to the Big Ten and NCAAs” moment in his first collegiate competition in a dual against Michigan on Oct. 4-5, swimming against defending NCAA champion Dylan Bosch in the 200-yard butterfly. He has since posted season-best times in a dual win at Michigan State on Oct. 17, winning the 100 fly in 49.79 seconds and touching in second place in the 200 fly in 1:50.45.
Twarowski doesn’t have specific goals for his first season as a Hawkeye, but he has his sights set on the Iowa butterfly school records. Byron Butler set the 100-yard fly record in 47.05 seconds in 2013, while Rafal Szukala’s time of 1:44.73 in the 200 fly dates back to 1992 — the same year Szukala won a silver medal in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
The beginning of the 2014-15 season has been a process for Twarowski in transitioning to a new training philosophy, but Long believes Twarowski has potential to vie for big things come championship season in February and March.
“Our expectation is he will be contributing as an All-American,” said Long. “Our school record is held by a former Polish swimmer (Szukala). It has been a number of years ago, but it’s our hope that he can break that school record as well.”
Earning an All-America nod at the Campus and Recreation Pool at the 2015 NCAA Championships in Iowa City would be significant. Twarowski would become the first Hawkeye to earn the distinction in 15 years, as Ales Abersek was a dual All-American in the 100 and 200 fly in 2000.