Catching up with NEWMAC’s Ross Johnston

Wheaton Swimming and Diving vs WPI.-Photo by Keith Nordstrom

By Kelley Baylis, Swimming World College Intern

Ross Johnston, sophomore on Wheaton College men’s swim team, is a swimmer to watch for at the upcoming NEWMAC Championships. Last year’s NEWMAC Rookie of the Year winner, as well as the current school record holder in 100 back, 200 back, 200 IM, 100 IM, 400 free relay, 800 free relay, and the 400 medley relay, Johnston has not held back in his first two seasons as a collegiate swimmer. Now, as a sophomore, he has learned the ropes of the team and is looking forward to his second round of NEWMACs.

The most important thing he learned from his freshman year was getting into a routine and finding balance.

“The biggest thing for me was learning how to balance swimming with school, as well as social time.”

When it comes to practice, he was honest and admitted, at times, he gets bored.

“I find that I get bored really easily. At times during this year, it was hard for me to get motivated for practice, but I try to find ways to make things interesting. Last year was so new and exciting, but this year I try my best to make things fun again,” Johnston said.

Change is inevitable when phasing from such an incredible start as an excited freshman into his sophomore year. Faster freshmen come onto the team, you know what to expect out of practices, and you know what to work on. Johnston has found more things to focus on in his second season.

“Even though I missed some part of this season due to a personal medical leave, I find that I am now more focused in the weight room. I know that my stroke technique is decent, and I find that the biggest thing that can help me now is being more powerful than I was last year,” Johnston said.

“This year I have been trying to focus more on butterfly, because I haven’t swum it shaved and tapered since high school. Last year, I only swam back and IM at NEWMACs and I am hoping to swim fly this year, so this will be my best shot at a best time,” Johnston explained.

Johnston hesitated when asked what the best part of his sophomore year (swimming-wise) has been thus far.

“It has been a weird and rough year for me, both personally and training-wise. I think my favorite memory from this year was when my coach Barrett told me he loved me,” Johnston said.

“It was one day when I had a particularly rough practice. Barrett pulled me aside and told me no matter how fast or slow I swim during a practice, he will always love me and care about me. I think I sometimes forget it really doesn’t matter how fast I swim, because there are always going to be people who are faster than me. I’m not going to be able to do this for much longer- what matters is the type of person I am and what I will do with that. In that moment I could tell Barrett recognized that too, and I truly appreciated that from him,” Johnston said.

Wheaton College Men's Swim team 2014-15-Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM


Ross says he’s looking forward to his second year of NEWMACs. He’s most looking forward to some fast swimming.

“At the end of the year, everyone puts aside their trivial disagreements and the team comes together as one,” Johnston said. “We are loud, enthusiastic, even obnoxious at times as a team, which I love. Even though we aren’t the fastest team in the conference, I think that we are definitely the most cohesive and enthusiastic team. That is something I am proud to be a part of.”

Although Johnston does not have his lineup solidified yet for NEWMACs, he hopes to switch it up from some of his races last year.

“Last year I swam the 200 IM, 100 back, and 200 back. I feel like I did well in my events. I am planning on swimming the 200 IM again, but the other two events are toss-ups. I plan on swimming the 200 IM the same way I did last year, but maybe incorporating a crossover turn from my backstroke to breaststroke. If I swim the 100 and 200 back, I will try and get back to what my biggest strength was, which were my underwater kicks,” Johnston said.

Johnston shared his pre-meet rituals with me when I asked what gets him pumped up before a race.

“I always stretch my ankles before my races. Behind the blocks I like to swing my arms in circles and crack my joints a lot. When I listen to music, I usually listen to Skillet or Linkin Park.”

Johnston will be fun to watch at the upcoming NEWMAC Championships, which will take place at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) from February 19-22.