Monday, March 20, 2000
sights on NCAA
The University of Hawaii juniorBy Kalani Wilhelm
sprinter will compete in four
events, including the 50- and
Special to the Star-Bulletin
NICK Folker has the prototype swimmer's physique and a list of accomplishment that stretch the length of a pool.
The surprise is not how good the University of Hawaii junior has become at his sport.
The surprise is how quickly the 6-foot-5 sprinter has risen in the ranks of the national elite considering his background.
Folker did not get serious about swimming until he was a year out of high school, preferring team-oriented sports such as rugby and cricket. But visions of representing his country in the Olympics drew his passion to the pool.
Folker and other members of the UH men's swim team will compete at the NCAA National Championships which begin Thursday in Minneapolis. Folker will be competing in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events as well as on the 100- and 200 medley relay teams.
Folker, who transferred from Miami after his freshman season, has dominated the individual events the past two years at UH. He is undefeated in those events this year and is ranked nationally in the 100 (No. 9) and 50 (11th).
He holds the UH records for the two individual races and is also part of the two record-setting relay teams in the 200 and 400.
For a swimmer who has made a name for himself in individual events, it's the team aspect of the relays he enjoys the most.
"It's all about the team,'' said Folker.
"When it comes time to get it done, the guys come together and do it for each other.
"I'm all about the team and I want to give back to Sam (Rainbow coach Freas) and everyone who has put in all the hard work this year.''
After last week's controversy that included two failed lawsuits, Folker knows the 16th-ranked Rainbows will be scrutinized.
"I think the other teams have a lack of respect for us that we will have to gain,'' Folker said. "We're out to surprise some of them and I think we will."
"Nick's a competitor,'' said Freas. "That's one of the best qualities he brought with him here.''
Folker spent his freshman year at Miami. After learning that the Hurricane program would be cutting scholarships he made his way out to Hawaii, Freas had just come out of retirement to coach the Rainbows.
Folker said he was well aware of Freas' reputation of turning great swimmers into world-class competitors.
"I always wanted to swim for him,'' said Folker, who had read one of Freas' books on coaching and training techniques.
"I heard nothing but great things about him from everyone in the swimming community.''
Under Freas, Folker improved, gaining the confidence he was lacking at Miami. Last year, he finished sixth in at the NCAA meet in the 100 freestyle, earning All-American honors.
"When I came to the islands, it was a total turnaround with Sam,'' said Folker. "I wanted to swim for him and I wanted to do well.'
"There is a driving force in Nick that makes him great,'' said Freas. "He wants to prove to the world that he's good.''
That chance begins Thursday.
Ka Leo O Hawaii