By (James Ogletree)

Alabama swimmer Connor Oslin was not recruited heavily by top-flight swimming programs during his senior year of high school. Now an NCAA contender and three-time SEC champion, Oslin has aimed to make them regret that decision ever since.

Alabama head coach Dennis Pursley said that even though he offered Oslin a partial scholarship, he never could have foreseen the amount of success Oslin has had, which includes ownership of a record previously held by Olympian Ryan Lochte.

“To say that he’s been a great surprise for us is an understatement,” Pursley said. “It’s helped grow our program and bring a lot of credibility to the program.”

Today, Oslin will compete in the 100-meter backstroke at the NCAA Championships. Last year, he finished second in the event.

Pursley said he indirectly attributes Oslin’s meteoric rise to his light recruitment in high school. He believes college coaches were wary of Oslin’s small stature and pedestrian race times, which caused them to miss out on an intense competitor.

“They didn’t look further than that, but there was a lot more there, and we’ve been the beneficiary of that,” Pursley said.

Oslin said being passed over by so many elite programs provided extra motivation to show them they made a mistake by not more actively pursuing him.

“I definitely had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove all the people wrong who said they didn’t have a spot for me on their team,” Oslin said. “I wanted to show that I was probably better than all the swimmers they recruited over me.”

To do so, Oslin said he takes every opportunity to compete and perfect his craft both physically and mentally. If there are no opportunities, he creates them.

During practice, Oslin said he often attempts to beat the times of the freestyle swimmers, even though freestyle swimmers are typically several seconds faster than a backstroke swimmer like Oslin. It all stems from his hatred of losing, he said, and the need to be prepared for more formidable competition.

Oslin also did not hesitate to credit the Alabama swimming program for his development, saying the atmosphere allowed him a fair shot to improve his skills, despite being a lightly recruited freshman.

“I think the environment here is perfect for somebody like me,” Oslin said. “Everyone has the same world-class training. If I was given the opportunity, I knew I could take it and run with it.”

Robert Howard, Oslin’s teammate for the last two years, said he agreed that the atmosphere of the program allowed swimmers to flourish. He also said Oslin had earned all of his success and that the team would miss his talent, leadership by example and approach to competition.

Pursley said Oslin’s hard work helped him become one of the most decorated swimmers in Alabama history, and that it also paid dividends for the program as a whole.

Entering the final meet of his college career on Wednesday, Oslin said the team’s accomplishments are more important to him than the individual accolades he has received during his time at Alabama.

“There’s been a core group of guys these past few years who have been key contributors,” Oslin said. “I just want to be remembered as part of the team that changed Alabama swimming forever and brought it back to national prominence.”

Alabama will compete at the NCAA Championships from Wednesday to Friday. Prelims start at 9 p.m. CT and finals begin at 5 p.m. CT

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports