A self-described “stick figure”


George Poteracki/The Daily Iowan
Iowa freshman Byron Butler swims away from the power tower in the Field House pool on Monday. Monday was a “speed and power day” of practice, assistant coach Kirk Hampleman said.
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Even though he labels himself as a “stick figure,” Iowa freshman swimmer Byron Butler is not a cartoon illustration.

Unlike Mickey Mouse or SpongeBob Squarepants, Butler is seriously dedicated in the weight room, which could be the reason for his success so far this season.

“Yeah, I’m pretty weak right now,” he said. “I think that more strength would benefit me a lot in all of my races. If you can apply it to swimming, it could be very beneficial.”

Butler grew up in New Berlin, Wis. He was a three-time All-American, winning state titles in both the 100 fly and 100 backstroke at the end of his prep career.

Competing for New Berlin West High School and the Waukesha Express Swim Club, he has always been in top shape. But something was missing.

After significantly improving his swimming by the end of his junior year of high school, he knew he could continue to the next level. After arriving at Iowa, he saw how college competition differed.

“In high school, I took it easy,” Butler said. “I just happened to have time drops. There’s a lot more of a technical aspects of swimming in college I’ve noticed as well.”

Iowa head coach Marc Long has noticed the difference a year can make.

Long said the swimming team takes great pride in its strength program, and that should provide Butler with ample opportunity to succeed.

“He’s adapting to it and really starting to thrive,” Long said. “A big part of our program is building strength and applying it to the water. He’s definitely done a nice job of that. We feel that’s an area of his game that will continue to grow throughout his career.”

Unlike high school, Long said, colleges have a significant advantage for adding strength.

“We can provide them a consistent and intense strength training plan,” he said. “And that’s just hard to do in high school.”

Programs and plans can only go so far, though. After practice is over, Butler hangs around the pool along with assistant coaches Kirk Hampleman and Frannie Malone, who usually stay after for anyone needing to work on her or his technique.

“Of course, he’s always willing to do the extra things to improve his stoke and get the best out of him,” Long said. “He’s done a tremendous job here early on.”

Strength and conditioning coach Bill Maxwell, an ex-college football player, has seen his share of workout warriors.

However, Maxwell said Butler may be one of the more impressive ones — even with his wiry frame.
If Butler needs to make an adjustment, Maxwell said, he does, utilizing advice well after being instructed the first time.

“Byron is an incredible athlete with incredible work habits,” he said. “He’s a little bit more mature mentally in respect to how he handles his workouts and how he handles swimming.”

While Butler’s body continues to build, so will the Iowa team. And for him, that is motivation enough.

“Just representing Iowa, that’s about it,” Butler said about what inspires him. “Representing Iowa, representing the Big Ten, and making my family proud. That’s all it is.”

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