DInnocenzo’s cerebral approach yields medals

2012-02-13_Swimmer_Portrait_Elisabeth_Dillon2019

Elisabeth Dillon

Junior Nick D’Innocenzo serves as a team leader for the Longhorns in and out of the pool. He is one of the team’s most accomplished swimmers winning multiple Big 12 titles in his time on the 40 Acres. He also will have an opportunity later this year to qualify for the Olympics at the U.S. National Trials, but first he would like to lead his team to another Big 12 title.

Elijah Perez

Nick D’Innocenzo walked to the starting blocks in College Station three weekends ago with one thing on his mind: winning. As he broke down every stroke of the event, the race playing out in his mind like scenes from a movie. With the outcome already seen in his head, he dove in to realize the goal.

“Right before, when I’m on the blocks, I’ll just sit there and think of nothing but ‘Ok—IM: fly, back, breast, free. 50 of each.’ It’s nothing but the race that flashes through my head.”

Repeat this scene two more times, change around a few of the strokes, and you’re left with D’Innocenzo’s stellar performance against A&M. The dual saw the junior swimmer from Andover, Mass. win two individual events and contribute to a winning relay squad. Nick had a hand in a third of UT’s victories that day, the final dual of the swimming season and the last event ever against Texas A&M.

Despite this superb individual effort, D’Innocenzo remains a humble, team-oriented athlete. Determination to help his team earn a victory and the willingness to work for everything he wants guide D’Innocenzo’s actions before every race.

“I gotta get in a lot,” D’Innocenzo said. “Some of these guys splash some water on their face and they’re ready to race. But I’m quite the opposite … I gotta do a little bit more than most to get ready for a swim. From there, I just get in the zone.”

Texas head coach Eddie Reese has noticed the cerebral approach D’Innocenzo takes into his races, commenting on his effort and dedication to helping the team.

“Nick is a high-level, consistent worker. Everyday. It doesn’t matter what stroke. He’s swimming, works hard, and competes with everybody.”

D’Innocenzo says this mentality was something he grew up with developing a winning attitude early on in his career.

“My coach in high school would enter me into as many meets as possible,” D’Innocenzo said. “I’ve kind of grown up with that kind of training and outlook. Getting in and doing three events, I’m no stranger to that. It’s tough, no doubt about that.”

The desire to see the team get back to the top nationally supplies D’Innocenzo with all the motivation he needs to keep the hard work up. As a freshman on the 2010 national championship squad, D’Innocenzo knows what it takes for the team to reclaim the top spot. He feels that this year’s team has an excellent opportunity to win it all again.

“We’ve got really good leadership with Jackson [Wilcox] and Hayes [Johnson], we’ve got big guys like Dax [Hill],” he said. “We’re just a lot closer this year. It’s awesome. It’s way, way cool to feel that way.”

Still, it’s the soft-spoken leadership D’Innocenzo provides for the team that Reese admires in the junior.

“He’s quiet. He doesn’t say much.” Reese added with a wry smile. “There are more of them I wish that were quiet and didn’t say much.”

This calmness follows D’Innocenzo away from the pool as well. The junior says that in his free time, he enjoys a round of the video game “Call of Duty” with some of his teammates or playing his guitar.

But the love of swimming always comes first. When asked what his future plans in the sport are, D’Innocenzo chuckled and said “I can’t say anything about that, I’ll jinx it.”

With an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic national team coming up later in the semester, D’Innocenzo acknowledges that it would be a huge personal accomplishment. But it’s the immediate goal of helping the team capture another national championship that D’Innocenzo is setting his sights on. Calling back on memories of the 2010 run, D’Innocenzo remarked, “It’s something that I want to relive. Hopefully I can help my team do that this year and then next year.”

The team will have an opportunity to be finish the season on a high note. Nick D’Innocenzo has already seen how he wants the ending to pan out. Now he’s ready to make it happen.