Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Kayla Dwyer and Gabby Jorio for Ithaca Week, an Ithaca College student publication. It is republished with permission.

ITHACA, NY – Last month, Cornell University sophomore Alex Evdokimov became the school’s first All-American for swimming since 2006.

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Evdokimov finished the NCAA Swimming Championship March 23-26 at Georgia Tech in 15th overall for the 200-yard breaststroke event, earning a nationally recognized honorable mention All-American status.

Still, the time he swam in the finals — a 1:55.90 — is not quite as fast as his career best, 1:53.56, which he swam at the Ivy League Championships in February.

“Of course, I would have liked to do better and get best times, but I still enjoyed the experience,” he said.

Evdokimov won first place in both the 200 breaststroke and the 100 breaststroke at the Ivy League champs Feb. 25-27 at Brown University, breaking his personal records and earning an invitation to the NCAA championships. This invitation is not based on rankings at this meet, though — it is based on where a swimmer ranks nationally with their season-best time. The conference championships are another opportunity to make those season-best times and make the top 30 swimmers that the NCAA invites.

Wes Newman, head coach of Cornell men’s swimming, said even though Evdokimov won in both these events last year as well, he did not rank high enough nationally to be invited to the NCAA championship.

This year, however, Evdokimov ranked 8th nationally in the 200 breaststroke and 17th in the 100 breaststroke.

This makes Evdokimov the first Cornell swimmer to go to the NCAA since Newman himself in 2009. Newman said Evdokimov and the last All-American, Mike Smit in the 200-yard freestyle 10 years ago, show a similar affinity for goal-setting and drive.

“I think all the best swimmers, and probably true of all athletes, have a certain level of focus, that when they put their mind to a certain goal, they are able to accomplish it,” Newman said.

This is particularly true for Evdokimov, who is not a lifelong swimmer.

He grew up in Russia and swam from the age of 7 to 11, but stopped when he moved to Florida for middle school. A friend in high school then convinced him to join the school team. One year later, he joined a club swim team for additional year-round training, which helped him reach the skill level with which he entered college.

“He really came off a big high after all the improvements he had senior year of high school, and so when he came in as a freshman, we were really excited to see if he could continue on that momentum,” Newman said.

Evdokimov said he has always been a breaststroker.

“It’s the one that comes most naturally to me,” he said.

Training for the NCAA required putting in more practice time after the team’s season had ended, but he wasn’t alone. Freshman Ian Russiello kept him company while he was training at the same time for a different meet.

“He kind of like does his own thing and then when it comes to the big meets like before NCAAs and the Ivys, he would kind of just turn it on and have this super, intense focus,” Russiello said.

Evdokimov’s win at the Ivy League conference also makes him the first individual conference winner on the team since 2011, Newman said.

“That fires up the team,” he said. “People were just excited to see that again and get behind that. So I think as a whole, the team really supports him, gets behind it, and really kinda has fun with it.”

Moving forward, Evdokimov will be training for the Olympic trials at the end of June, along with three other swimmers on the team. After that, it is back to training for the NCAAs.

“I’m already excited for next year to train and to get to this meet again and hopefully do better,” he said.

Cornell University sophomore Alex Evdokimov will join this wall of All-Americans located in the athletic offices of Teagle Hall at Cornell University. Photo by Gabby Jorio.

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Ithaca Week is a weekly publication produced by Ithaca College students in the multimedia journalism program.