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Final splash for Betulius

BY IAN MURPHY | MARCH 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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The soft-spoken leader of the Iowa Hawkeyes is down to the last meet of his five-year tenure for the Black and Gold.  

The NCAA Championships will descend upon Iowa City to close out the men’s swimming and diving season and the Hawkeye career of senior Grant Betulius. 

Betulius has had a storied time at Iowa. He owns the school record in both the 100 and 200 backstroke and is without a doubt the part that makes the Hawkeyes go. 

He finished 13th at the NCAA Championships in the 100 backstroke as a redshirt sophomore, garnering honorary All-American honors in the process.  

The story of this season has been his consistency, Betulius did not lose the 100 backstroke at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center until the Big Ten Championships in late February. 

There, Betulius did not meet his time from the Hawkeye Invitational in early December and slipped to seventh place. He was seeded first prior to the preliminary heats of the event. 

The 100 backstroke, however, does not tell the whole story. Betulius is vital to the team. He swam all five relays at the championships and just two individuals, rather than the usual four relays and three individual events. 

But before he became the Hawkeyes’ anchor, he was a high-school swimmer with an upward trajectory matched by few. 

During his senior year, Betulius told his high-school coach he was going to win a state championship. 
His coach, Chad Allen, admits he doubted that. Allen’s star backstroker did not make the varsity squad at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois, until his junior season. 

“He was a late bloomer,” Allen said. “Most people make varsity freshman or sophomore year.” 

By the end of his senior season, Betulius had become a force in the 100 backstroke and won the state title he had said he would. 

“We had some really great teams when he was here,” Allen said. “He took it to another level his senior year.” 

Allen said Betulius grew as a leader with each season but still in a quiet, lead-by-example way. 

But make no mistake, Betulius is a competitor, Allen said, expressing full faith Betulius would rebound from the Big Ten Championship meet.

“It certainly wouldn’t surprise me,” Allen said. “I’m sure his focus was more on NCAAs.” 
Former teammates also believe Betulius will rebound. 

“I have more than enough confidence in him,” former swimmer Giani Sesto said. “He went through the same thing two years ago.

“I think there was added pressure for that title [in the 100 backstroke].” 

There was pressure in the 100 backstroke. Iowa head coach Marc Long said much of it came from Betulius himself. However, Long said he believes Betulius will be ready to go this weekend.

“The clocks are off and you’re just racing people,” Long said. “That’s all it is.” 

Now, however, the pressure is gone, and Betulius can focus on the last few races of his college career.

“There’s always some expectations senior year to kind of go out with a bang,” Betulius said. “It’s going to be really tough, but I think if I’m able to do what I’m capable of, there’s a shot.” 

The more important part of the meet for the senior who will hit the water for those final few races, is to contribute to the team score and be the leader, something he has been quietly doing for his entire Hawkeye tenure. 

“He’s always early,” Sesto said. “He’s the type of swimmer you want to model a team around.” 

Jordan Huff, another former teammate, had similar sentiments. 

“When it comes down to a meet, there’s no one grittier than Grant Betulius,” Huff said. “He doesn’t care who’s lining up next to him and what they did last week, he’s trying to win.” 

That competitive drive rubs off on teammates. After winning the 400 freestyle relay at the Hawkeye invite to win the meet, sophomore Jackson Halsmer, who was part of the winning relay, called it an honor to swim with Betulius. 

Then, as it has been throughout his career, Betulius was more concerned about the team outcome than himself. 

“The most important thing for him is scoring points for the team,” Huff said. 

Betulius did not make the NCAA Championships his junior year. He says he got complacent in both his training and in the weight room, and as a result missed the meet. 

However, he returned to form his senior year, pushing himself in the weight room and in his workouts. Day in and day out, he has been called the hardest worker on the team. 

Affectionately known as Whitebread by his teammates (for asking for white bread from Jimmy John’s on his road-trip meals), Both Sesto and Huff said Betulius is capable of finding a different level.

“There’s a fire inside that boy,” Huff said. “And when he get’s fired up, he gets toasty.” 

After redshirting his freshman year, Betulius has been on a tear for the Hawkeyes, breaking records and making the NCAA Championships, all while quietly leading by example. 

Long noted his team captain does not say much. Allen, who has known Betulius since the swimmer was 9, said Betulius has always been that way. 

He does not need to, however, Betulius leads by example. He says he is ready for the meet and his final swims at his home pool. 

“It’ll be a lot of fun,” Betulius said. “To end it with all my teammates, I’ve been here for five years, and to end it with my last meet as a Hawkeye here is awesome.” 


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