SOUTH BEND — Normally, a road trip for the University of Louisville swim program would be just another order of business. While this may have been the case for the vast majority of the program last weekend in a dual at Notre Dame, it was a homecoming of sorts for a trio of local swimmers.
While not unprecedented in college athletics but a rarity just the same, two swimmers and a diver from the Northern Lakes Conference are on the active roster at Louisville. Leading the Cardinals are 2009 Concord High School graduates and current seniors Alex Burtch and Korey Schrock along with 2012 Wawasee High School graduate Brittany Robinson. Burtch and Schrock are both four-year members of the program – Burtch one of the tri-captains – while Robinson is managing her way through her freshman season.
Robinson’s road to Louisville has been an interesting route. The decorated Wawasee grad spent a good portion of her four seasons in Syracuse as the hunted, having lost just one career head-to-head race other than state which included eight individual NLC and sectional titles. The coveted state championship came in stunning fashion last February, breaking the state record in the butterfly at (53.41) and just missing a second title in the backstroke. Robinson helped a rejuvenated Wawasee team break 59 school, pool, conference, sectional and state records her senior year.
This fall, however, hasn’t followed the electric pace, rather Robinson is just getting over mono and settling into a format with Louisville where she is just one of the girls. A format accepted with open arms.
“No, not at all, I like it,” assured Robinson of her current role as just another swimmer in the program. “This was how it was for me in age groups growing up. I was never the top at age groups. This gives me something to work towards.”
Robinson showed some of the effects of her recent illness against Notre Dame, but mostly did her job swimming in the ‘B’ lanes, which is to continue to improve on times and mature as a freshman.
“There is a lot different down here on the team side,” Robinson said of the difference between the high school and college scenes. “Everybody is on the same level. We are all working for the same thing. In high school, there were a lot of girls just swimming because they wanted to have fun. Here, everyone is competitive and are swimming for bigger goals. Things we all want to achieve. Competing and training is a lot more fun.
“I want to prove myself, that I belong on this team. I want to show that I can compete at this level and get better as I get older. That is a huge goal for me.”
Burtch and Schrock visited Notre Dame for the second time as Cardinals, the first as freshmen in January of 2010. Burtch, who was a nine-time All-American, seven-time sectional champion and set five school records at Concord, has continued his success at Louisville, most recently helping the Cardinals to a 14th place finish at the NCAAs with the 800-meter relay team. Burtch was also named a three-time All-Big East performer last year.
Burtch, who spent a good portion of the Notre Dame meet working his team’s side of the deck with hi-fives and praise, managed to work in a little slice of home with assistant coach Rachel Komisarz-Baugh. The two-time Olympic medalist was easily swayed by Burtch’s offering of a box of Rise & Roll doughnuts, which instantly won Burtch a bonus point, in case he was searching for one.
“I’ve always prided myself on giving a great effort in and out of the pool, and do it Monday through Saturday,” Burtch said. “Never stop. What I can offer in the pool is my best asset. I try to be loud and vocal outside the pool the best I can. If I am not having a good day in practice and my times aren’t there, I am still loud and trying to encourage others. We preach helping the other guys along. No matter how good or bad my day may be.”
Schrock has continued to excel on the diving board, where his success at Concord included being a two-time NLC and sectional champion, and a regional championship his senior year. At Louisville, Schrock has qualified for the Big East Championships all three seasons, placing 13th on the one-meter board and 16th on the three-meter board last winter.
“Coming back here my senior year, I had a lot of friends and family that came here to watch me,” Schrock said. “The pressure to perform is there, but at the same time still have fun. All the people came out to see me, they want me to do well, but at the same time I look at everything positively. Go off their vibes, try to put on a good show for them.”
The trip back to northern Indiana was one well received by the trio, who each had their own way of making the trip worthwhile. Robinson spent a few minutes visiting with her family, who earlier in the day had their own swim meet to worry about as sister Breanna and mom Julie are sophomore and coach for the Wawasee team that hosted DeKalb while dad Brent is a deck volunteer. Brady, the youngest of the three kids, seemed awestruck just to be at Notre Dame.
Schrock used the final 15 minutes of his meet up in the stands visiting with family after completing the three-meter competition and Burtch also had family in the crowd, and a new best friend holding the vanishing Rise & Rolls on the deck.
“It’s always a fun opportunity to come back home and swim,” Burtch said. “It makes me miss home a little more, I miss the area. It makes me appreciate where I come from, but definitely I have enjoyed my time at Louisville. I have had a blast here.”