Mering Makes History with Win at Nationals

Quin Nelson

Junior Karl Mering started nationals without his goggles and ended with a national championship.

Mering had a successful stint at the Division III Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis, highlighted by a victory in the 100-yard butterfly that made him the first national champion swimmer in Whitman’s history at the DIII level. This feat, however, looked doubtful in the 100-yard butterfly preliminaries, when Mering’s goggles fell off as he dove into the pool.

“It definitely distracted me from my race for a split second,” he said. “But knowing that I was able to get through that gave me a lot of confidence going forward, so it kind of worked in my favor in a weird way.”

After a sixth place finish in preliminaries, Mering was put in an outside lane for the finals, limiting his vision of other swimmers.

“I couldn’t really see anyone as I was swimming, I could just sort of feel them. I think that feeling of people breathing down my neck helped me in the end,” he said.

Mering ended up winning with a time of 47.91 seconds, just a hundredth of a second before the runner-up Samuel Gill from Connecticut College, a wonderful but not entirely unexpected result.

“I came in knowing I was capable of winning,” said Mering. “There’s only so much that you can control in a race, but I knew winning was within my realm of expectations.”

Mering also performed well in his other races, including 14th place in the 100-yard freestyle and third in the 200-yard butterfly. He attributes his success largely to having gone to nationals last year.

“After nationals last year, I understood what I needed to do in training, so this time around I felt a lot more confident and physically prepared,” he said.

He was also aided by having senior Claire Collins competing at nationals with him. Collins capped off her career with 11th-place finishes in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events.

“Claire is a wonderful person, so it was nice to have her there as extra support. And it was nice to have a teammate there so I wouldn’t always be thinking about my own races,” Mering said.

After capping his season off well, Mering feels more comfortable going into next year.

“I’ve always wanted to be a 100-yard freestyle guy, but now I realize I’m a butterfly guy. I’ve sort of found my identity,” he said.

Mering is especially excited about the 200-yard butterfly next season, after finishing third behind two other juniors.

“It’s going to be an insane race. Three of us finished within a half second of the national record, and we’re all juniors, so it’ll be a fun race next year,” he said.

While Mering has plenty to anticipate, he also can reflect on a remarkable end to his season.

“To come away with the result that I dreamed about, it feels great,” he said.