Visitors of the Jones Natatorium on the campus of Eastern Michigan University will notice an unusual amount of banners hanging from the rafters. These banners are there to acknowledge the men’s swimming team’s 31 Mid-American Conference titles.
With each victory, it looks like Eastern Michigan is getting closer to putting another conference championship banner up, thanks to swimmers like freshman Cole Bateman coming to Ypsilanti.
Bateman is a native of Hutchinson, Minn. He says he participated in other sports along with swimming. After playing baseball, soccer and football, Bateman chose to stick with swimming around middle school.
“Swimming was mainly there to keep me in shape,” Bateman said. “But when I hit middle school, that’s when it really just stayed swimming.”
To say Bateman had a good high school career at Hutchinson High School would be an understatement. Hutchinson was a high school where a swimmer could start swimming in the seventh grade. Bateman took that opportunity and it paid dividends immediately after he went to the state meet. He followed that up with a second place finish in the state meet as an eighth grader.
He kept improving every year, winning a varsity letter, earning nominations for All-Conference and All-State before being named All-American in his junior and senior year.
His high school career ended on a high note with a state championship in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-backstroke. Bateman set the state record in the 100-back as well as setting three Hutchinson records and five pool high marks.
After visiting Eastern Michigan and considering another offer from the University of Minnesota, Bateman chose to swim for the Eagles for his four years of college.
“[Eastern Michigan] was the best fit for me,” Bateman said. “It was a smaller campus; I loved the team, the coaching staff. It just felt right when I came on my visit.”
Bateman made his debut in EMU’s road dual meet at Northwestern University Oct. 18.
His first event was the first event of the day: The 200-medley relay as part of an Eagles “A” team that finished third along with fellow freshman Kyle Aerne, sophomore Krzysztof Gilski and senior Gus Everson. Later that day, he got two third place finishes in the 100- and 200-backstroke events and a second place as part of an EMU 400-freestyle relay team.
He got his first victories of his college career in a home dual meet versus Oakland University Nov. 9 in the 200-medley relay and the 100- and 200-backstroke events. With the start the men’s squad got off to, Bateman has only one word to describe his time at Eastern Michigan.
“Amazing,” Bateman said. “The guys are great.”
Eastern Michigan swept the MAC Swimmer of the Week of Jan. 13 with Bateman seeing his named get mentioned along with women’s swimmer Jessie Godlewski.
Bateman won it after being part of the 200-medley relay team at Denison University Jan. 10. He also was victorious in the 100-backstroke with a time of 51.53 and the 200-back, punching the wall at 1:52.24.
“I was surprised,” Bateman stated. “I really didn’t expect that even in my freshman year.”
The honor was a culmination of the hard work that his teammates and his coach Peter Linn have seen out of the freshman all season long.
“He was a good athlete coming in, but he’s worked real hard at improving himself and has trained hard. He has started to get some rewards for that work,” Linn said.
With two more events left in the regular season at Miami University and Ohio State University, Bateman has high expectations for himself and his team for the rest of the 2013-14 campaign.
“I hope to get top three in my events at [the championship meet],” Bateman said. “I’m really hoping that we can all swim our best, and do that and get first at the MAC conference championship.”