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Emerging From Shadows Buoyed By Memories Of Ex-Teammate, Whitworth’s Welch E Title

Tue., March 3, 1998

FROM SPORTS REPLAY (Wednesday, March 4, 1998): The event times in the Tuesday story on Whitworth College swimmer Dan Welch were for yards, not meters.

Sometimes competing in another’s shadow can be a good thing.

In fact, competing in another’s shadow could lead to a national swimming championship for Whitworth senior Dan Welch.

This is the first year Welch has been swimming without John Rasmussen’s sizeable shadow doing the breaststroke in a nearby lane. When Welch finished an impressive fourth at the NAIA championships a season ago, Rasmussen overshadowed his accomplishment by taking home the national title.

Rasmussen, who graduated, still holds school records in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. Welch feels them hanging over his head.

“It’s like he’s still here. He went that time, and it’s my goal to try and catch him and get over him.”

Rasmussen’s best 100-meter time is 57.73 seconds, just ahead of Welch’s 58.00. In the 200, Rasmussen swam a time of 2 minutes, 4.16 seconds, nearly 6 seconds faster than Welch’s 2:10.22.

The Pirates recruited Welch from his YMCA team in Boise. Then, Whitworth was in need of a solid breaststroker. Welch signed on.

That was before Rasmussen joined the Pirates midway through his season. As soon as Welch jumped into the pool, he was scrambling to keep pace with Rasmussen.

“It was a total help-out relationship,” Welch said. “He was always at the end of my lane cheering for me, and I would to try to do the same. He would always correct my stroke and push me to go faster and get up there into the championships.”

Welch concedes that Rasmussen was more of a natural athlete, but while Rasmussen wasn’t overly ambitious his first couple years at Whitworth, Welch still had to work like mad to keep up.

In Rasmussen’s national-championship season, he finally fulfilled his potential by combining his talent with tough workouts.

“He was a great inspiration, especially his last year,” said Welch, “because he turned it on with workouts. I finally had someone to truly work out with. That really helped me have a good season.”

Now Welch is looking to parlay that work into his own national title. He ranks 12th in the nation in the 100-meter breaststroke, but his best time - earned at last season’s nationals - ranks with the times at the top of the list.

“He’s worked hard enough this year,” said Tom Dodd, the Pirates coach. “I just think it’s a matter of us giving him enough rest and fine-tuning to have him do the job.”

Welch is one of 13 Whitworth swimmers who qualified for the national meet Thursday through Saturday in Federal Way, Wash.

Welch’s future really depends on what he does at nationals. He made himself a promise to keep swimming if his time was comparable to those at the senior national level. Welch is at the junior national level, but a stellar time could qualify him to move up. In senior nationals, you’re times are competitive to those at the Olympic trial level.

“I don’t even know what the (senior national) time is,” he said. “I don’t want to look at it because I think it would psyche me out a little bit.”

If he made that cut, his next step would be at the Olympic trials, a little more than a year from now.

But for now, Welch is working on his career goal, to be a professional student.

He is wrapping up an art education degree and is just short of a second in communication studies. After his year off, planned for next year, Welch hopes to attend graduate school to pursue degrees in art and education, as well as undergrad degrees in political science, biology or forestry.

Other Whitworth men joining Welch in Federal Way are senior Mike Peloso, junior Jeremiah Pappe, sophomore Ben Swinehart and freshmen Jake Palmer, Brian Rice and five relay teams.

Pirates women entries are juniors Tania Braun and Alison Eckenroad, sophomores Mindy Galbraith and Megan Williams, freshmen Jennifer Cruze, Erin Kay and Kristine Kowalski and five relay teams.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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