En route to helping the Hoosiers finish 18th at the NCAA Championship meet in Minneapolis on Saturday, sophomore Eric Ress made All-America finishes look easy — even with a broken hand.
Ress, who broke the third metacarpal bone in his left hand during the final lap of the 100-yard breaststroke at the Big Ten Championships, still finished second in both the 100 and 200-yard backstroke at NCAAs. Both races resulted in All-America honors for Ress. In the 200-yard competition preliminaries, Cory Chitwood of Arizona beat out Ress by .12 of a second, the closest finish in the 200-yard backstroke since hundredths of a second have been counted.
The time also breaks his own school record in the event.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he would have been a double national champion with smooth sailing,” IU coach Ray Looze said. “But it’s even more impressive just not quitting and showing the fight that he did. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for the young man, and he’s a great leader, both by example and through actions as well.”
Though the injury was physical, Ress said the remedy was mental.
“I tried not to let it psych me out that much,” Ress said. “I tried to stay as even-keel as possible and tried not to let it bother me because I knew the more I would focus on it and use it as an excuse, the more I’d actually probably hinder my swimming, so I just tried to go into it the same way I went into Big Tens.”
Ress wasn’t the only standout for IU. Freshman Cody Miller finished 10th in the 200-yard backstroke with All-American honors. In his final collegiate event, senior David Piercy earned his first All-American honors after finishing ninth in the three-meter springboard competition. Diving coach Jeff Huber said Piercy’s confidence and attitude help the youthful diving squad develop into next year’s leaders.
“We’ve got some guys that were able to watch and take notes,” Huber said. “And we’ve got some good guys coming up that will be our next team leaders.”
The team has shown improvement this year from past seasons. In 2009, the Hoosiers finished 25th, and last season, they finished 31st. Looze said injuries were a major problem with last year’s squad, with big contributors like Ress and sophomore Jim Barbiere unable to participate.
“We had a lot of guys redshirt last year, a lot of injuries and whatnot,” Looze said. “So we definitely had more talent this year to work with, and I felt we had better chemistry and the kids really bought into the program.”
The Hoosiers look to continue the improvement seen from last season to this one, but Looze said the program will only move forward with a productive offseason.
“We’re proud of the direction we’re moving in, and we’re really pleased with the team,” Looze said. “And if we have a great spring of training and summer, that will go a long way to putting together a Big Ten championship team next year and one that can move up the NCAA ladder.”
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