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Murphy: Betulius left his mark on Iowa program

BY IAN MURPHY | MARCH 31, 2015 5:00 AM

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Someone in the media area at the NCAA Championships this past weekend joked that the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center Natatorium should be called “The House Paul Gordon Built.”

Gordon was a member of the 200- and 400-freestyle relays that won Iowa’s last Big Ten titles, in 2012. If Gordon built the Rec Center pool, he only laid the foundation.

Although it didn’t meet his expectations, Grant Betulius put up at least one wall to Iowa’s program. His senior season, which began with much promise, did not end the way he had hoped.

He held the No. 2 time in the nation in the 100 backstroke through the conference-meet season.

However, Betulius did not equal his performance at the Big Ten or NCAA Championship meets.

But through a five-year career at Iowa that saw the Hawkeyes host two Big Ten Championship meets and the men’s NCAA Championships this season, the graduating Betulius has left his mark on the program.

Records in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, and a member of record-setting 200- and 400-medley relays, are only part of the legacy he leaves.

Betulius was recruited as a Hawkeye after blooming late in his high-school career to win an Illinois state title in the 100 backstroke.

“When he came on his recruiting trip, we were in the Field House,” head coach Marc Long said. “We couldn’t even talk about things that were happening here.”

His rise continued with a ninth-place finish and honorable-mention All American honors in the 100 backstroke his sophomore year.

Betulius’ junior and senior seasons may not have gone according to plan, but his focus was never individual.

Scoring points for his team was all that mattered.

“He’s the kind of swimmer you model a program after,” former teammate Gianni Sesto said.  

“I’m not going to sum this season up with someone who’s a couple tenths off here or there. That’s ridiculous,” Long said. “Grant’s been such a huge part of our program as we’ve gotten better and better.”

The Hawkeyes sent five athletes to the NCAA Championship meet this season, which Long said was the largest number of Hawkeye swimmers since Glenn Patton, the Iowa swimming coach with the most wins, was at the helm of the program.

Two of those athletes owe their NCAA Championship bids, at least in part, to Betulius.

Sophomore Jackson Halsmer and freshman Jerzy Twarowski both went to the NCAA Championships on the 200- and 400-medley relays. At least once during the season, both of those relays saw Betulius post backstroke splits that were competitive nationally.

He believed he could claim Big Ten and NCAA titles in the 100 backstroke. Those titles were not out of the question for a swimmer with his skills.

Although those hopes weren’t met, he rewrote the Hawkeye record book numerous times over the course of his career and over the course of this season.

He might not have finished the job, but he plans to continue training for a chance to make the Olympic Trials in 2016.

“It’s disappointing, but I don’t think I’m done swimming,” Betulius said. 

He was more than just a step in the right direction for a program that is moving toward relevance again. His career was a stride that left Iowa much better than it was five seasons ago.

Follow @IanFromIowa on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa swimming and diving team.


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