Harkins wins first collegiate event

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Harkins wins first collegiate event

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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For freshman swimmer Nicholas Harkins, winning his first collegiate individual event was worth the wait.

Harkins took first place in the men’s 200-yard individual medley at Valparaiso over the weekend with a time of 2:02.86.

Harkin’s win came in the sixth dual meet of the season, also after swimming at the Illinois Invitational and House of Champions a few months back.

“It was really exciting because I’ve been wanting to get it all season, I’ve been trying to get it all season and then to finally get it at one of our last meets, and my aunt was also there watching,” Harkins said.

After working hard all season long, and to finally get his first win was really special and a relief Harkins said.

The Eastern men’s and women’s teams train 20 hours each week before competing each weekend. The Panthers also have not begun to taper yet, and all the hard work that Harkins has put in has paid off he said.

“Some of the other freshmen got wins in the first couple meets and for me to work at it, it kind of makes you want to work harder to finally get that first one,” Harkins said.

Something special that the Panthers do when they win the race is the “Hoo Ha” cheer, which is something Harkins has wanted to do all season. The first career win for Harkins also resulted in excitement from his teammates.

“I finally got to do (the “Hoo Ha” cheer) and it kind of really fired the team up going into the last relay,” Harkins said. “I basically ran over to Jacqueline (Michalski) and she was really happy for me too, so it was a really good experience.”

After winning the event he went and gave coach Jacqueline Michalski a hug after she helped him improve as a swimmer over the course of the year.

“It is motivating, inspiring and downright exciting,” Michalski said. “It makes me re-fall in love with the sport, and remind me why I do this.”

The individual medley consists of four different strokes for 50 yards: the backstroke, the butterfly, the breaststroke, and the freestyle. For Harkins, the toughest leg of that event is the butterfly.

Harkins said that he has had to work on his breaststroke technique the most in his first year as a Panther.

“(Michalski and I) have been working on it, she’s been working with my technique and she’s been really helpful in that area,” Harkins said.

Michalski said she is beyond proud of the young man he has evolved into within the last five months and also cannot wait to watch him race and celebrate his success.

“I will be the first to tell you, I am hard on Nicholas (Harkins): always telling him to go faster, fix his “cheat” breaths, not back down and of course get good grades.” Michalski said. “Every day he answers with ‘yes coach’ and does it to the best of his ability.”

Everyone on the swim team is really close with each other and pushes each other to do well in the pool and in the classroom as well.

Fellow freshmen Alex Laleian and Jennings Soccorso are two of the main guys on the team who Harkins has a “healthy rivalry” with.

“You’re always trying to better in your classes than some of your teammates, and you’re trying to swim better than them,” Harkins said. “It’s a healthy rivalry in a way.”

While he is swimming he is able to take a couple peaks and see where other swimmers are and then he’ll know that’s where he has to be.

In his first semester as a student at Eastern, Harkins posted a 4.0 grade point average.

With all of the training the Panthers do and also having to go to class, it was important to Harkins that he made a schedule.

“You have to get into a schedule, and that’s the biggest adjustment,” he said. “Once you get that schedule down, you’re finding time to study, you’re getting all your homework done and you’re doing your best in the pool, it comes pretty easy after that.”

Harkins had practice from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. first semester and made sure he got his work done during the day and would also dedicate a couple of hours after practice to make sure he had everything done.

It took him about a month to adjust to the life of a student-athlete he said.

Harkins is a kinesiology and sports studies major with a concentration in exercise science. He came into college with 29 credit hours with most of his general education courses out of the way so he was able to jump right into KSS classes.

Conference is coming up in just a couple of weeks and being a freshman, this will be Harkin’s first experience there.

“I’m just making sure that I’m doing everything coach says, I’m not skipping yards, or getting out of practice for any unnecessary reason and just making sure I’m getting enough sleep and eating healthy,” Harkins said.

He said as a swimmer you focus on these things all year, but now it is even more important to do so. The Summit League Conference meet will take place Feb. 17-20 at Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Harkins is a part of a young group of men swimming for Eastern with a bright future ahead of them.

Harkin’s first win of the year made a big impact on the rest of the team Michalski said.

“They get excited for not just him, but for the program,” Michalski said. “Celebrating victories no matter at what level bring up moral, and helps build a program with a firm foundation.”

 

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]