While younger swimmers and divers excitedly count down the days until the rapidly approaching NESCAC championship meet, men’s captain Nate Courville ’17 and his fellow senior amphibians are processing more mixed emotions. Lasting four years in such a demanding program is no small feat, and walking away from a group to which they’ve devoted so much time and energy is difficult in its own right. The Argus sat down with Courville to talk about this emotional trade-off, as well as his storied romance with women’s captain Serena Zalkowitz ’17 and his undying love for rapper Machine Gun Kelly.
The Argus: Why is Machine Gun Kelly your personal idol?
Nate Courville: He’s my personal idol?
NC: Well, I got introduced to his music through a friend in high school and I liked his flow, and his lyrics, and his hard edge. I also like how he’s kind of got a chip on his shoulder, which I feel like I have as well.
A: Where does your chip come from?
NC: I don’t know, I’m a short guy, I’m a redhead, I’m the youngest of my family. So I feel like I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder in that sense, so I vibed with Machine Gun Kelly on that. I also like how he’s from Cleveland, he had a tough upbringing, he moved around a ton, and he always persevered through everything. People were trashing on him all the time when he first put out music saying ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’, and now his new single is double platinum or something like that. So he’s proven everyone wrong and I think that’s really cool, I guess that’s why he’s my personal idol.
A: Has the impending conclusion of your swimming career been a source of more excitement or dread?
NC: Definitely a mix of both. Swimming is probably one of the hardest sports mentally. Waking up at 6 a.m. in the winter and trudging through the snow, especially since I’ve been doing it since I was 15, is a lot, and I definitely won’t miss that part of it. Over the last few weeks of the season I’ve started to realize it’s almost over, and I’m going to have to give up things I really love about swimming. You have a hard practice and you throw down some times, or you have a meet and you get a season best, that kind of feeling is one that I’m probably not going to experience for the rest of my life. So I’m definitely dreading that part of it, and I’m trying to chase those types of feelings before I run out of time.
A: If you had to choose a best moment of your career, what would it be?
NC: My sophomore year, [the NESCAC Championships] were at Middlebury, and we really came together as a team in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. We broke out a new cheer, and everyone went best times. My freshman year, we were 10th of 11 [in the conference], and we jumped to eighth that year. Seeing all of that progress in one year… for me it’s always been about the team rather than the individual, and when everyone is on the same page and working hard to make the team better, then individual goals will get accomplished along the way. Seeing those aspects come together at NESCACs definitely made for an amazing moment.
A: Your team has a horrible retention rate. Why do you think that’s the case and why were you different?
NC: My freshman year we had 13 people between men and women and now it’s down to four. There’s been a lot of different circumstances and personal situations, obviously each one is different. Some transferred, some got injured, some just quit. I think swimming is a sport where it’s hard to be on a team and not give it 100 percent commitment because if you’re just going through the motions, you’re not going to have a good time. You’re going to be out of shape and you aren’t going to be having best times, and I think that’s probably really hard. I’ve definitely had some moments here where I questioned whether it’s worth it, and you really have to have a strong perseverance and commitment to your teammates. One thing that pushed me to stay on the team and motivated me through early-morning practices is the amazing teammates that I’ve had. They’re really cool people, really interesting, and we all get along really well. Retention rate certainly isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Wesleyan swimming and diving. Some of my friends were swimmers at other NESCAC schools and even were NCAA qualifiers, and quit. The sport of swimming in general just has that problem.
A: How do you feel like dating a teammate for three years has affected your dynamic with other teammates?
NC: As far as my senior class goes, last year there were five of us and we were all in relationships with people on the team. I don’t think it affects the team dynamic in any way. Obviously, Serena [Zalkowitz] and I, being together for so long, work really well together, which has made being a co-captain with her really easy. We’ve been able to be honest with each other, bounce ideas off each other, and that was actually really helpful for dealing with little issues that cropped up throughout the season. Having someone there who’s so easy to work with and not be worried about walking on thin ice around has probably been a really good thing for the team dynamic.
Argus: Who’s your favorite teammate you’ve had during your time here? How about least favorite?
NC: Oh man, so many favorites. Max [Wimer ’19] and Phon [Leeswadtrakul ’19] really keep everything light and interesting. They’re always being goofy, smiling, and that takes a lot of the edge off of swimming. So it’s great that they’re always having a good time, but they also know when to be serious and can really get to work. That’s another cool quality that they have. I really enjoy hanging out with those guys outside the pool too, which is awesome. Another really great teammate is Karl Ortegon [’18]. I hosted Karl on his recruiting trip, so we go way back. We have team buddies and he was my buddy so we’ve bonded a ton, although we also fight a lot. He really loves the sport of swimming and is really dedicated to the team, which is the exact type of teammate that you want. He always pushes me if I’m slacking in practice. He’s just such a good presence and the exact type of guy you want to fill out your team with. Least favorite teammate is Eren Kiris [’19]. He’s a riot, and he’s one of my best friends, but at the pool he drives me fucking crazy. He took a couple years off and came back super into bodybuilding, so he’s jacked now which is not good at all for your swimming ability. He’s taking some major time to get back in the pool and he pretty much forgot everything about swimming. So many questions for me about everything, from when practice is to what a certain set is… like you’ve only been gone for two years, how do you forget all this. He drives me crazy, but I want to commend him for coming back to the sport and getting to good enough shape where he could probably score at NESCACs.