The Wolfpacker

May/June 2022

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 25 of 51

BY MATT CARTER hen exploring his options as a star international recruit from War- saw, Poland, Kacper Stokowski was interested in NC State. That was until he made a recruiting visit in 2017. "When I flew back to Poland, and my mom asked me about all the trips … I told my mom that NC State was the place I would never go," Stokowski recalled. "I didn't like it there." Five years later, Stokowski is only the second swimmer on the men's side in NC State history to win a national championship in a backstroke event. There was a detour in his path to NC State. Somewhat true to his word, Stokowski did not originally sign with the Wolfpack. Instead, he landed at Florida. Then after a year with the Gators, he took an Olympic redshirt in 2019-20. "I knew already at that point I wouldn't be going back to UF," he said, "but I wanted to be going back to NCAA [competition] because I loved that format … combining swimming and education at the highest level." Enter NC State swimming coach Braden Holloway, who left a lasting im- pression on Stokowski. "I trusted he would develop me as a swimmer and as a person," Stokowski noted. The proof was clearly evident. Stokowski arrived at NC State mid- year in the 2020-21 season. About three months into working with Holloway, Stokowski finished second at the NCAA Championship meet in the 100-yard backstroke. Coming to Raleigh allowed Stokowski to quickly adapt to the short course swimming in college compared to the long courses of Europe, where he starred. He set world junior records in the 50 and 100 backstroke and was a four-time Eu- ropean junior champ, including winning both the 100 backstroke and 200 free- style — all distances in meters per the long-course format. He also owns the Polish national re- cord in the 100-meter backstroke. Stokowski's successes in the pool were the culmination of taking up the sport when he was 6 years old. He also did soc- cer, track and even fencing. Stokowski was 11 when his mother, tired of seeing him pass out from ex- haustion on car rides home from soccer practices at the end of the day, insisted that he stick with one sport. Swimming was his choice. "I don't regret it," Stokowski said. "I am very glad that I decided to keep swimming. Maybe because I am more individualistic, and swimming is a very individual sport." Conquering college swimming became a passion for Stokowski. The courses were measured in yards rather than me- ters, which meant that he had to change his stroke and kick counts, among other adjustments. Stokowski impressed Holloway with his coachability, and the new regimen yielded immediate positive results. "I lost by 17 one-hundredths of a second at NCAAs" Stokowski noted. "I knew I was up there. I knew what I had to work on, what I had to improve in prac- tice. I gained a lot of confidence after the last year. "That helped me a lot going to this year." Race day always bring some nerves for Stokowski, especially the morning swims at NCAAs when some competitors will go all out to secure spots in the two finals for valuable team points. Stokowski was boosted, however, by swimming the 50 back in the 200 medley relay faster than W Fourth-Place Finish At NCAAs Ties Team's Best Ever With junior Kacper Stokowski leading the way, NC State tied its highest finish ever by placing fourth as a team at the NCAA Championships. The Wolfpack totaled 291 points and finished behind Cal, Texas and Florida at the event, which took place March 23-26 in Atlanta. Stokowski's national championship in the 100-yard backstroke was the team's top performance, but the Wolfpack earned six additional All-America honors and six honorable mention nods, and all five of its relay teams achieved All-America recognition. After Stokowski's win, the team's top performances were a second-place effort by sophomore Will Gallant in the 1,650 freestyle and third-place showings by junior Ross Dant in the 1,650 freestyle, and by the 200 medley relay team consisting of Stokowski and freshmen Rafal Kusto, Nyls Korstanje and David Curtiss. NC State has now finished in fourth place in five of the past six NCAA Championships. — Matt Herb FINDING A HOME Kacper Stokowski Wins A National Title At The School He Once Spurned Stokoswki became only the second men's swimmer in NC State history to win an NCAA backstroke event. He posted a championship- winning time of 44.04 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke in Atlanta this year. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE ATHLETICS 26 ■ THE WOLFPACKER

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