Slattery exceeds expectations, leads swim team as senior

Nick Bratcher

When Nick Slattery arrived at WKU three years ago, he was an overweight walk-on on the swimming and diving team surrounded by questions of his capability to compete at the collegiate level.

Slattery, now a senior, is a WKU swimming and diving team captain with a school record in the 100 fly after his time of 48.40 at last year’s Sun Belt Conference championships.

“I came in at 215 pounds, so I lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of training in high school,” Slattery said. “Division-1 swimming is a whole other story, so it really took me two years to get used to the training and competition on the team.”

Head Coach Bruce Marchionda said he really didn’t have any expectations of Slattery, who attended Bowling Green High School, when Slattery first entered the program.

“We actually had to make a really tough decision to even allow him to walk on his freshman year,” Marchionda said. “But we looked at his work ethic, and in the end we decided to give him his shot.”

Marchionda said Slattery’s progression was great to see, though.

“He came in with times that weren’t competitive within a dual meet situation,” Marchionda said. “But by his sophomore year, he was scoring in duals, and by his junior year, he was winning events in dual meets.”

Slattery, who has taken on greater responsibility this year as captain, hasn’t only grown in the pool.

“His role this year is one of being a rally master,” Marchionda said. “He’s done a really great job of getting the relays excited about possibly breaking pool records. Because of that, we’ve been able to break a lot of them this year.”

The Toppers haven’t lost a meet since their Oct. 16 contest against South Carolina.

Senior Claire Donahue said Slattery’s work ethic has played a major role in the team’s success.

“If Coach asks us if we want to swim at a faster interval, Nick always chooses to do the faster one,” she said. “He has a positive attitude, and that is big in swimming because if you have a negative one, it’s hard to train fast.”

Slattery said his personal goal had been to break a school record, but he achieved that in last year’s Sun Belt Conference championships.

This year, he’s set his individual sights even higher.

“I want to make NCAA championships,” Slattery said of his goal, which selects only the top 35 swimmers in the nation for each event. “To be top 35 in the nation is a really hard thing to do. I don’t know if that’s within reach or not, but we’ll see.”

Slattery said keeping everyone focused on team-oriented goals, though, is first priority.

WKU looks to continue its winning streak against Evansville at 1 p.m. this Saturday in the Bill Powell Natatorium inside the Preston Center.

 “We like to have fun here and goof off a lot,” Slattery said. “But I’m also trying to keep everyone serious and motivated — get everyone’s eyes on the goal of a Sun Belt Conference Championship.”