Now that the swimming and diving season is over, Rowan head coach Brad Bowser says he’s taking a vacation.
His parting gifts?
Knowing his team had a national champion, multiple All-Americans and a team that finished in ninth place at the NCAA Division III Championships.
“Nationals was very successful,” Bowser said. “We were very successful with our final placement. We had our ups and downs but we leveled off on that last day. We were able to score in four events that moved us from 12th to ninth on Saturday.”
That ninth-place finish is an improvement from last year, when the men’s swimming and diving team finished 11th out of 57 teams. Bowser had previously said that finishing in the top 10 was a goal for this group.
“It was a goal from the 2015-16 season,” Bowser said. “We felt like at the end of last year we bit off more than we could really chew, but we were able to stick it out this year. I think we had more veterans [than last year.] When they got to the meet, they didn’t feel too much pressure.”
He continued to stress the importance that the seniors had at the championships, saying that they always have a way to rise to the occasion and get to the next level, since it is the last time they get to perform.
One of those seniors that rose above and beyond the occasion was Jesse Novak.
Novak won the national title in the 100 freestyle after he came in second place in the event just a year ago. His winning time of 43.29 was a school record. Novak also received All-America honors for placing second in the 50 free.
“He’s leaving a legacy,” Bowser said. “He’s probably, what some would call, the best swimmer in his events to come through this university. He really changed this program in the pool, but also outside the pool. Whether it’s hitting the weights harder or hitting the diet differently.”
Another senior that performed well and received All-America honors at nationals was diver John Morris.
Morris took fifth on both the three-meter and one-meter board with 516.30 and 475.60 points, respectively. At last year’s competition, he was 10th in the three-meter diving and 12th in the one-meter.
The 400-freestyle relay team consisting of Novak, Eric Feuerstein, Nate Wojtowicz and Paul Long also claimed All-America honors.
“John, for his last time diving, getting fifth place in both boards, getting a taste of the nighttime competition and him finally getting to go out that way is very special,” Bowser said. “It’s special as coaches to see someone get there four times and then finally on his last time excel and be an All-American, not an honorable mention.”
“Having Mike Simunek come out of nowhere get All-America Honorable Mention in both of his breaststroke events was great,” Bowser continued. “Having the rest of the seniors leave as All-Americans in the relays gives them something that they can feel proud of also.”
The strong performance at nationals shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
The men’s swimming and diving team finished the year at 7-2, winning both the New Jersey Athletic Conference and the Metropolitan Championships. Even the women’s team, which was unable to send any swimmers or divers to nationals, had a solid year, ending with a 6-3 record while also winning the NJAC and taking second at the Metropolitan Championships.
According to Bowser, the year was “definitely a success.”