Austin Morris

Moline sophomore Austin Morris has qualified for state in the 100-yard backstroke for the second consecutive year.

Austin Morris is the kind of athlete who puts a unique pressure on his coach.

The Moline sophomore swimmer is equally talented and dedicated. He trains year-round, twice a day, swimming about 3,600 yards each practice.

“He makes it challenging,” Moline coach Craig Frederiksen said of his workhorse. “He puts a little bit of pressure on the coach, someone working that hard in the offseason. You only have 14 weeks with him. With that level of attention on his stroke technique and his training in the offseason, if you’re not doing the right thing as a coach, you might not get much of an improvement out of him.”

Frederiksen must be doing something right.

Morris will swim in two events at this weekend's Illinois state meet in Winnetka. He is seeded 13th in the 100 backstroke with his time of 52.13 seconds at Saturday's sectional meet at United Township, which was a second faster than his conference record time (53.26) the week before at the Western Big Six meet.

Morris also leads off the 200 medley relay which qualified for state along with teammates Ethan Luong, Peter Son and Avery Fowler.

Only a sophomore, Morris' potential is not lost on Frederiksen, a former Division I swimmer at Western Illinois University.

Morris, who also won a conference championship in the 100 butterfly, will be making his second trip to state.

“He’s demolishing anything I ever achieved in high school,” said Frederiksen, himself a former Moline swimmer. “His runway is a lot longer, a lot longer (than mine).”

Morris, an excellent student who loves to swim, has his eyes on some marks this weekend and in the future. After finishing 23rd at state in the backstroke as a freshman, Morris indicated he thinks medaling (top-12 finish) is certainly possible this year.

To place in the upper-half would be huge for the 5-foot-7, 135-pound sophomore whose father was a state championship wrestler at Sherrard.

“That would honestly mean the world to me,” Morris said. “Going from (13th) where I am seeded now to third. That’s what college scouts want to see. The colleges want to see those top-five finishers.”

Morris and his coach believe his time could drop with some additional fine-tuning. Frederiksen has watched his sectional video many times over.

“I still think he’s got a little more performance-wise in the tank,” Frederiksen said. “There’s some low-hanging fruit. I think he can get something out of that. Bottom line, with how tight it is between him and the next six positions, a little bit of time can make a huge difference in place there.”

It also helps that Morris has been here before. Frederiksen said Morris was a big "big-eyed" going into state a year ago.

“Literally, it’s overwhelming just by the sheer amount of people standing on the deck," the coach said. "That gives me anxiety just walking through there as a coach.

“The warmup is virtually non-productive,” Fredericksen added, noting there’s about 30 qualifiers for each event. “You got that whole population in the pool at once.“

But this year at the New Trier High School pool, it won’t be a new experience.

“It was obviously a very new thing to deal with last year,” Morris said. “And going in with experience this year will take away from the nerves aspect and just pump me up. I know what’s coming. I know what kind of swimmers are there, so it’s just an all-around kind of motivation type thing.”

Morris will begin with the 200 medley relay at Friday's preliminaries, which the coach thinks could set a school record at state.

Long term, Morris has his goals set far beyond this weekend.

“My goal really is Olympic Trials,” he said. “If I can make it to Trials (in Omaha), and know that I raced hard and gave it everything I had and if it’s just not there, that’s enough for me. I know that I have gotten where I want to be.”

But first things first. Getting a medal at state is his main goal right now.

“Honestly, getting a medal at state,” Morris said, “is amazing.”

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