By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Mateusz Arndt’s transition to a new country and the University of Iowa swimming and diving team has gone smoothly, thanks to an assist from senior Michal Brzus.
Arndt is a native of Gdynia, Poland; Brzus is from Bodaczow — 420 miles apart. The two have known each another since they were 15-years-old.
“I spoke with Michal (before) coming to Iowa,” said Arndt. “When I came, he showed me around with how life works here. That made the transition easier. I can speak Polish sometimes, so the transition is better.”
Arndt decided he wanted to come to the United States last April. Iowa assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Richard Salhus started communicating with Arndt last September.
“I had offers from other universities, but I chose Iowa because the team was the best and academically this university was good, too. I am studying health and human physiology. I want to be a physical therapist.”
Iowa head coach Marc Long says Arndt’s presence has been felt since his arrival.
“He seems to have adjusted well,” said Long. “He is here early, takes care of himself, prepares, and post-workout, he takes care of himself. We’re preparing for February and March, but in practice every day, he’s bringing it.
“That is raising the level of everyone around him.”
Midway through his first collegiate season, Arndt is leading the team in the 200-yard freestyle, 500 free, 1,000 free, and 1,650 free. He posted an NCAA “B” qualifying time of 4:23.31 in the 500 free at the Hawkeye Invitational in November and his 1,650 free time of 15:26.79 is already the eighth-fastest in school history.
Arndt got his first taste of swimming at the age of 7 when his parents enrolled him in a swimming class. They wanted him to be active and healthy.
“The first two lessons were a struggle,” he said. “I could not keep my head from going under the water.”
After Arndt overcame his fear, he was a natural.
“I was really good at swimming,” he said. “In competitions, I always scored the best times.”
Ardnt’s Iowa career has gotten off to a fast start, which should not come as a surprise when you look at his prep resume. He earned two medals at the 2016 Euro Junior Swimming Championships, claiming the gold as part of the 800-meter free relay and the bronze in the 200-meter free.
“He has a lot of experience competing at a high level,” said Long. “His times convert well when it comes to the NCAA competition, but he’s a freshman and is adjusting. Things he brings to the table are not only experience and fast times, but he treats himself like an elite athlete.”
Arndt believes his Euro Junior Championship experiences will help him when it comes to competing in marquee collegiate events.
“I did well in that kind of competition,” he said. “The pressure at those big events are high, and I learned how to manage it. I think I will be better in managing the stress because (Big Tens or NCAAs) won’t be my first big meets.”
Arndt hasn’t set specific goals for his freshman season. He wants to train hard, do his best, and qualify for the NCAA Championships. Long sees that at a feasible goal.
“He came (to Iowa) to do well in school and compete at the highest level in the NCAAs,” said Long. “We feel like he can compete at the highest level and we’re preparing him for that. That means we want to be scoring at the NCAA Championships and beyond.”