March 9, 2007
In preparation for the NCAA Swimming Championships, Utsports.com will publish several profiles to spotlight nine Tennessee swimmers who qualified for the 2007 NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minn. Each day a new release will focus on a new swimmer to honor his accomplishments, to peer into the personality of a UT swimmer and to learn about his preparatory thoughts on the championships that will be held March 15-17. The swimmers will be highlighted in the following order: Brad Boswell, Andrew Engle, Octavio Alesi, Jim Dabney, Nolan Morrell, Barry Murphy, Jeff Sudbury, Michael Wolfe and Andrew Thirlwell. Today's profile focuses on sophomore Nolan Morrell.
Nolan Morrell grew up with basketball and swimming. His mom taught swim lessons, and his dad played recreational basketball. His dad was a big basketball fan, so it's no surprise that some of Morrell's first words began his sports vocabulary.
"A couple of my first words were 'Larry Bird,'" Morrell said. "My dad was a huge Boston Celtics fan while I was growing up. So, that was one of the first five things I said.
When asked about swimming influence, Morrell said that swimming media refused him a swimming hero.
"I never really had any heroes in swimming because it's not a very high profile sport," Morrell said. "I couldn't follow it until the internet made it much easier because it's so big."
However, his mom played a very pivotal role in the unfolding of his swimming career.
"I like to basketball a lot," Morrell said. "I played it when I was a kid. Eventually I had to make the decision between basketball and swimming. Basketball was my first love because my dad was always playing in men's leagues. He ended up having to quit because of so many injuries which included a ripped Achilles tendon. I swam because my mom was a really good swimmer in the Yukon and Canada. I was about nine when I started; I was one of those rec-pool swim rat as a kid. My mom worked as a swim instructor and life guard. So, I saw my mom swimming and my dad playing basketball and those were the two things I did. When I got to middle school, it became too hard to do both. So I had to make the choice to do swimming although basketball was really fun."
As his high school career rolled around, Morrell found himself partaking on the school's swim team and an addition club team. On his club team, Morrell had one friend attend the University of Wyoming and the other set off for Auburn University.
"We had swum together since we were 9," Morrell said. "There was always a lot of competition even between the guys on the club team. That really helped me improve.
High school swimming did not carry the same weight that club swimming held for Morrell.
"High school is not a very big deal in Oregon," Morrell said. "But we won three state championships. I didn't win an individual one until my senior year when I won two. For one, I wasn't that accomplished of a high school swimmer and there were always older guys resting for state my sophomore and junior years; so it was difficult for me to win those years. It wasn't a huge deal to me. We didn't rest for state. We had chances to break some records in individual and relay events my senior year, but we decided to rest, step back and swim for our club. We wanted to focus on sectionals for that."
Morrell's success in during his high school years made him a valuable asset to any team that would have him. However, one school rose above the rest to capture his attention.
"I'm bit of a rare case when it came to choosing schools," Morrell said. "I visited here in the Fall and signed in the Spring. Usually, if you visit in the Fall, you don't sign at that school. This was the only school I visited in the Fall. I really didn't want to sign after one visit although I really liked it here at UT. I waited until the Spring and I was confident I would have time drops, so I made my value higher to the University. I'm very happy with that decision.
"I did look at some other schools- Ohio St., Arizona St. and Berkeley. There was a couple I liked but not any of them as much as I liked UT. The area, coaching staff, weather and Tennessee football made this the best choice. I don't know where I picked it up in Oregon, but something really makes me like it here in East Tennessee."
Morrell will race six events - the 200 freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay, 800 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay, 200 freestyle and 100 freestyle - next week in Minneapolis, Minn. for the NCAA Championships. Morrell said that preparation now depends more on how hard the team has trained all year.
"It's really more about how we've prepared all year," Morrell said. "We've done a lot of work all year and we shaved in the middle of the year so we could swim through conference championships. I'm really excited to see how well my breaststroke goes and to see if I knock any time off from conference when I was a little under the weather and had no rest at all."
Morrell is no longer under the weather, is confident his preparation this year has been sufficient and is eager to perform well at NCAAs.
The 2007 NCAA Championships, again, are held March 15-17 in Minneapolis, Minn. The next profile will feature sophomore Barry Murphy.