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Athlete spotlight: first-year Paul Cover ’21 breaks school record in 100-yard butterfly

Paul Cover ’21 broke the school record in the 100-yard butterfly last weekend at the Grinnell Invitational.
Paul Cover ’21 broke the school record in the 100-yard butterfly last weekend at the Grinnell Invitational.

At the swimming and diving team’s Grinnell Invitational last Saturday, Jan. 20, Paul Cover ’21 was thinking about breaking records.

“I had known from my swim in the morning that I had a shot at breaking [the record] and asked my coach if I could wear those special suits that help us go faster — the tech suit. Going in I looked at the board and knew what I was shooting for,” Cover said.

By the end of the night, Cover clocked in at 51.30 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly event, besting Emmanuel Spooner ’13’s previous record of 51.34 seconds.

The suit, however, was not the only thing that propelled Cover to a historic night. Cover’s friendly competition with his roommate, Mitch Sevier ’21, who happened to swim in the next lane over that night, played a major role. In the end, it certainly paid off. Unlike previous wins, this victory seems much sweeter for Cover.

“I [also] have a 100-yard butterfly record on my high school and my club teams. … [But] I definitely like this one more because I knew I got Mitch with me and [butterfly]’s not really [just] my thing here.”

As for his fans and coaches, they knew Cover was going for the record the moment they saw him pull on the suit. They might have witnessed what essentially is the beginning of a storied rivalry between the two roommates.

“But I’m not done by any means, and Mitch [is] still coming for me so I still have somebody to race for that.”

Growing up in Columbia, Missouri, Cover played many sports when he was a kid. He got into swimming at a very young age, and by the age of 12 was swimming competitively. He then realized that everything else had to go to make room for swimming.

By the time college application season got around, the intended biology major knew he wanted to attend a Division III institution. Among the college trips he went on, Grinnell’s facility was, to him, “nowhere even remotely like the others.” He also really liked the intimate atmosphere of the team and felt really close to everyone. Also, there’s no doubt that the presence of Coach Hurley, who Cover describes as “unbelievably good,” made his decision to join the Pioneers much easier.

Nevertheless, attending a highly academic Division III college like Grinnell also poses challenges for Cover. Nowadays, he usually finds himself rotating between classes, homework and practice. What has kept Cover going, he finds, is his own responsibility for planning out his day, a habit he learnt well from high school. However, comparing high school and college is not always the most clear-cut comparison. Swim practice, for example, is certainly different now.

“It’s sort of hard to compare [high school and college practice]. They have a very different training style, [and] college’s is super coach-dependent. I did many more yards [back in high school], and here we do fewer but each one matters more,” Cover said.

All in all, Cover knows his student-athlete career has just begun. There are many more miles — or in his case, yards — to cover.

“I want to keep bringing that record down because I know I can go faster. Maybe I’ll go for the 200-yard [butterfly] record as well. As long as I get to race, I’m fine with whatever happens.”

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