LARAMIE, Wyoming, March 24. OUR Q&A series featuring first-time NCAA Championships qualifiers rolls on as we are just three days from the start of the men’s Division I meet.
Name: Ryan Nelson
Year, school:Sophomore, Wyoming
Events he’ll swim: 500 freestyle, 400 IM, 200 butterfly
Swimming World: You just missed out on making the meet last year. How much did that motivate you this season?
Ryan Nelson: It motivated me to work a lot harder. I wasn’t upset that I didn’t make it last year, but I definitely didn’t want to miss out on the meet again.
SW: Describe the work you put in to make sure you got your spot in the NCAA championships this year.
Nelson: I made a lot of technique changes to all four strokes, and I think it really helped my races at conference. I pushed myself harder in the pool this year, using every training opportunity to improve my race. I also took my dryland and strength training more seriously than I did last year.
SW: It’s been 65 years since Wyoming took more than one swimmer to the men’s NCAA championships. How will it help to have Adam Kalms join you in Austin?
Nelson: After a big meet like our conference championships, where there is such a huge team atmosphere, it’s hard to go and compete by yourself. I think it will help a lot to have Adam there for support and to recreate some of that team energy, even if it’s only one more person. Hopefully I can be there to support him too.
SW: You come from Edison High School, the alma mater of Tom Shields. Though he swam different events, how much did he inspire you as you progressed through the sport?
Nelson: It was really cool to swim on the same high school team as someone like Tom Shields. I was constantly around fast swimming and he really raised the level of competition and expectation. I think he inspired a lot of people to work hard and strive to reach the level he was at. Being from the same school and town, it made it seem very possible to one day reach that level.
SW: Of the three events you’re swimming in Austin, which one are you most looking forward to swimming?
Nelson: The 400 IM. That’s the event I actually qualified in, the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly are just bonus events. I’m seeded pretty well and I’m excited to swim against everyone else at the meet.
SW: How did a southern California native such as yourself end up at the University of Wyoming?
Nelson: I didn’t know anything about the program here until a girl from my club team, Nicole Boyce, came here a year before I did. She gave the coaches my email address and we started talking and I looked into the school more. I came out for a visit in October of my senior year and liked it a lot.
SW: How will the success you’ve had so far this season motivate you for your junior year?
Nelson: I want to keep working hard to improve my times next year. I don’t have a lot of expectations but it would be cool to be in the top 8 at NCAA’s next year.