Each athlete on the men’s swimming and diving team has his own individual routine before a race. Most of the swimmers listen to music or do jumping jacks behind the block to get the juices flowing.
Freshman swimmer Aidan Hartswick, however, prefers to sit in solitude with his head and shoulders slumped over his chest. Before competition, the freshman breastroker is in his own realm of tranquility and serenity.
In these moments before a huge race, Hartswick is in zen mode. But when he breaks out of his meditation and enters the water, a wave of energy is exerted from his slender frame. From then on, the tranquility disappears and the competition is on.
Hartswick, to the surprise of his teammates and coaches, has made his presence felt since joining the Bombers. Junior breastroker James Bowe said Hartswick does not look like he’d be one of the fastest swimmers on the team.
“He’s extremely skinny,” Bowe said. “I just cannot fathom how he is summoning all of this energy during a race and still being able to beat me.”
Last season, Bowe was the team’s top breastroker. He finished second and sixth overall in the 200-meter and 100-meter breaststroke in the Empire 8/Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association Championships and earned all-conference and all-state recognition.
Since Hartswick’s arrival, however, Bowe said he has had to pass the torch to his young teammate.
Men’s swimming and diving head coach Kevin Markwardt said Hartswick, a graduate from Mount Mansfield Union High School in Underhill, Vermont, wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school.
“He was a good recruit, but not somebody you would do backflips for,” Markwardt said. “He’s from Vermont, which is not a big swimming state. Their high school swimming is not really deep.”
It wasn’t until around the end of his senior season that Hartswick caught the attention of Markwardt and his recruiters.
When he first arrived, Markwardt said he thought Hartswick would swim in practice and contribute to the team in one or two events during competition, like most freshmen when they begin their careers.
“Just based on his times from up to his junior year and the beginning half of his senior year, this is our third breastroker,” Markwardt said. “This guy is going to come in and score a few points. Maybe in a year or two he’ll have more of a role.”
From the first meet, Markwardt said he knew Hartswick was going to be the squad’s top breaststroker. In that meet, the freshman placed first in three events including the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke, which he finished in 28.04 seconds and 1:01.01, respectively.
Hartswick has continued to impress his coaching staff and fellow swimmers by consistently finishing in the top spots in the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke in the meets this season.
Hartswick said he never thought of himself as a top-notch recruit.
“I didn’t really think about it at all,” he said. “I just wanted to be able to have a contribution to the team.”
Aside from inheriting the role of top breastroker, Hartswick has been given other responsibilities such as being a member of the 200-meter medley relay team, where he is the lone underclassman swimming alongside the team’s top senior swimmers like Lucas Zelehowsky and Logan Metzger.
Hartswick said the workload hasn’t been a burden so far. He also said his ability to manage the pressure of the moment has been one of the keys to his breakout season.
“I just try to stay relaxed with each race,” Hartswick said. “You can’t overthink it too much, at least in my opinion. So for me it’s just the matter of staying relaxed and not psyching myself out.”
Bowe said he has taken notice of the rookie’s competitive nature and quiet demeanor from meet to meet.
“He doesn’t really let anything bother him, which can be a good or a bad thing,” Bowe said, “I think that for the most part it’s a good thing because in swimming you can never let something bother you. If you do, it’s going to affect your other races.”
Though he has been pleased with Hartswick’s versatility and his willingness to swim in any event offered to him, Markwardt said he has been careful with how hard he pushes Hartswick. He said he has given the freshman a structured workout, but Hartswick has adapted quickly to the new training regime.
“I pushed him too hard and I needed to back off,” Markwardt said. “Over the next few years, if he continues to get excited about what his potential is, we can keep pushing him in those workouts.”
Markwardt said he sees a bright future in Hartswick and is excited to work with him to make that vision become a reality.
“There’s a level of progression,” Markwardt said. “He’s only a freshman. I don’t just expect him to have the one unbelievable year and not get better. So now comes the next thing: ‘How good can I be’ and ‘What will it take to get there?’ That’s the thing I want to nurture in him over the next year or two.”