Before the start of the second day of the men’s NCAA swimming and diving championships Friday night at the University Aquatic Center, freshman Gophers swimmer Bill Bishop fake jabbed at his teammates to the beat of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
Competing in his first NCAAs, Bishop behaved more like a confident veteran than the first-year swimmer that he is. The 19-year-old performed admirably for the Gophers, placing in the top 10 in two events and setting several records.
“I’m not as uptight as I was at Big Tens,” Bishop said. “It’s a new experience, so I figured I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in getting nervous.”
The native of Barrington, Ill., finished eighth in the 1,650-yard freestyle, 10th in the 500 freestyle and barely missed qualifying in the 400 individual medley. His 17th-place time was only .04 seconds away from the 16th-place finisher, who was the last qualifier for the consolation championships.
Bishop’s time of 15 minutes, 10.55 seconds in the 1,650 freestyle set a new school mark for the best time and the fastest 1,000-yards swam in school history. He entered the event seeded 21st out of 28 swimmers, but left improving his time in the event by more than 4 seconds.
He also had personal bests in both his preliminary and final races of the 500 freestyle Thursday. His time of 4:22.96 in the consolation finals of the event bettered his Big Ten time by almost two full seconds.
“For a freshman to come in and swim like that in his first NCAAs is awesome,” senior tri-captain Matt Schlessman said. “You can say you’re surprised, but he just keeps surprising everyone.”
The outgoing teenager seemed to surprise even himself at the NCAAs. Fifteen minutes after he finished competing in the 1,650 freestyle, he sat on the bench with a look of disbelief on his face, which was still red from the grueling competition. One by one his teammates came up and congratulated him, making sure to rub his freshly shaved bald head.
In addition to being known as a strong swimmer, Bishop, or “Wild Bill” as he is known to his teammates, has developed a reputation for being boisterous and hard-working.
“From the moment Bill came on the team he was a team leader,” junior swimmer Eriek Hulseman said. “He fit in and he wasn’t shy like some freshmen, he was outgoing. Everyone grew to like him very quickly. It’s just really cool to have someone like that come in and take charge. A lot of people look up to Bill even though he’s only a freshman.”
Bishop is a blend of athletic ability, confidence and style with a flair for overachieving.
“Every time he’s got in the water he’s done a super job,” Gophers coach Dennis Dale said. “He’s swam with a lot of courage. His performance has been even better than we expected, and we expected great things.”