By Caitlin Mangum
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Nick D'Innocenzo had high expectations for himself as he enrolled at The University of Texas and joined the Longhorns' men's swimming and diving program in the fall of 2009.
He was a former national high school record holder in the 200-yard individual medley and a member of the U.S. Junior National and U.S. National teams. Unfortunately, illness kept the Andover, Mass., native from achieving his goals in the water, leaving him disappointed by his freshman campaign.
"I was not too happy with my performances last season," D'Innocenzo said. "I did everything that I could to try and pull back from having swine flu in October to having a tonsillectomy in December and basically missing all of Christmas training. But it happens. It is life. Last season is in the past, and I am looking forward to this season."
While D'Innocenzo hoped to make the finals in each of his events at the NCAA Championships last year, he was unable to score a point for his team. His goals for this season have not changed, but he believes he is in a better position to contribute to the team's goals.
In November, D'Innocenzo was named the Counsilman-Hunsaker National Division I Men's College Swimmer of the Week after helping the Longhorns to victories over Indiana and Michigan. He posted what was then the nation's No. 1 time in the 200-yard breaststroke with his NCAA "B" cut of 1 minute, 59.98 seconds.
"It was good to have this early success, especially after how last season went," D'Innocenzo said. "I did not think that last season went particularly well for me, though I was certainly happy with how the team did. It feels good to be doing well."
D'Innocenzo continued his fall success in December at the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame Invitational, where he posted a top-15 national time in the 200 individual medley. His proficiency in the breaststroke and individual medley events add even greater depth in a pair of strong events for the Longhorns.
Texas head men's swimming and diving head coach Eddie Reese has coached his fair share of champions. Yet, he is continually impressed with D'Innocenzo's dedication, hard work, and natural ability.
"He is swimming really well," Reese said. "He is beating everybody he can beat. He is beating people he should not beat in theory. That happens when you get somebody that works hard and is a good racer."
Despite D'Innocenzo's setbacks last year, Reese believes that D'Innocenzo is poised to make a big splash this season.
"He is a great competitor, and he has set himself up this year," Reese said. "As long as we do not have any more tonsils grow back, he is going to be in great shape."
D'Innocenzo does not intend to disappoint. In order to achieve his goals, D'Innocenzo has devised a plan centered around good, old-fashioned hard work.
"I have to train harder than everyone else," D'Innocenzo said. "That is my goal. At the end of every week, we like to have clap meetings and talk about who is working hard. My goal is to make sure that I am recognized as a really, really hard worker here."
D'Innocenzo and the top-ranked Longhorns return to competition later this month when they visit perennial powers Auburn and Georgia. Texas will host the Big 12 Championships in February at UT's Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.
By Caitlin Mangum