By Brett Shweky/Sports Director
After the Panthers’ convincing victory against the Fighting Illini in a two-day meet at home on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, Conference USA named junior Naomi Ruele Co-Swimmer of the Week.
Ruele came out on top in all three of her individual events and also swam leg on four winning relay events. In 400 Free Relay on Friday, the squad finished with a 3:47.43 time, which is the fastest time by a C-USA team this year.
The junior attributed her great performance against the Fighting Illini to her teammates and explained how she felt the team was going into the meet with momentum.
“Going in [to meets] I usually feed off the energy of my teammates,” said Ruele. “So how they do typically is what motivates me to do it for them, to always compete for my team, and I think going into this meet specifically we all had high spirits. We were all full of energy and I think that really contributed to my high performances this week.”
FIU finished the two-day meet by defeating the Fighting Illini by nearly 100 points.
In day one of the meet, the Panthers won nine out of the 12 events to give them a 161.5-61.5 lead. FIU’s 200 Medley Relay team, which is comprised of Ruele, Taylor Grabenhorst, Letizia Bertelli and Kelsie Campbell, scored the first 11 points of the meet for the Panthers after finishing first in the event.
In day two, Ruele won the first event for the Panthers on Saturday, finishing with a time of 26.91 in the 50-yard Backstroke.
FIU placed first in six out of the 10 events on the second day and finished the meet with an overall score of 251.5-166.5. In total, the Panthers were victorious in 15 of the 23 events.
Ruele discussed how she has continued with the same training routine from last season, however has made slight adjustments to improve her time. As a sophomore, Ruele qualified for the NCAA team in the 400 freestyle relay, the 200 freestyle and the 200 medley relay.
“I strongly believe in not changing what is working,” said Ruele. “So I’m typically just thinking about sticking to the plan that I had last year and making some slight improvements here-and-there, like a lot of little things that we specify in the pool such as turns. Just things that can add a little bit of time, cause the times get faster and the opposing team are always getting faster every year.”
Outside of being named to the NCAA team, Ruele set a school and Conference record in the 400 Freestyle relays and a school record in the 200 Medley, 200 Freestyle and 400 Medley at the C-USA Championship on Feb. 22, 2017.
She also represented her home country of Botswana at the Final World Swimming Championship on Nov. 2016.
This was not the first time she represented her nation, as a redshirt freshman, she qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in the 50-meter Freestyle. Ruele was honored by her nation with the Botswana’s Junior Female Sportsperson of the Year Award.
To keep herself motivated, Ruele explained how she consistently sets goals for herself and is always trying to improve from her previous performance.
“I always add certain personal goals, I like to try to beat myself every single day. So like everyday is who I was yesterday and is not who I am going to be today,” said Ruele. “I like to think about it as, if I beat myself from yesterday, I’m definitely going to keep improving no matter what.”
Prior to attending FIU, Ruele earned a bronze medal at the 2014 South Africa championship and finished with a time of 30.13 in the 50-yard backstroke. She also became the first swimmer in her country’s history to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in the 50-yard backstroke in 2013.
The junior out of Gaborone, Botswana, explained that the connection she managed to establish with the coaching staff was a large contributing factor in her decision to attend FIU.
“When I spoke to a couple of coaches, like in the recruiting process, and I clicked mostly with Nacho [Assistant Coach Ignacio Gayo],” said Ruele. “I strongly believe a strong coach-swimmer relationship is what it takes so be a successful swimmer. Like you can go to a great school or a highly ranked school, but if you don’t have that connection with your coaches and your teammates then you won’t enjoy it.”
Next up for Ruele and the rest of the swimming and diving team, the squad will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, to compete in the Purdue Invitational on Nov. 16 to Nov. 18.