AJ Nybo and Luke Rodarte have a successful time at the 2022 NCAA Division III Championship


Photo contributed by CLUSports

Swimmers Luke Rodarte (on left) and AJ Nybo (on right) won multiple awards at the 2022 NCAA Championships.

Melodie Truchi, Reporter

California Lutheran University swimmer AJ Nybo did not let COVID-19 define the end of his college swim career and neither did his teammate Luke Rodarte with his back injury.

Nybo placed 6th in the 200 fly and 8th in the 200 yard Individual Medley at the 2022 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championship. Rodarte brought home first place in the 100 yard breaststroke event. 

In a Zoom interview Rodarte said he was dealing with a back injury for most of this year and there were certainly points where he wasn’t even sure if he was going to be able to compete at the NCAA championship.

Cal Lutheran swim and dive Head Coach Barry Schreifels said typically a swimmer puts one foot forward one foot back for their dive so Rodarte had to switch up his footing to alleviate his back pain.

“I’ve coached college since 1986 and I’ve never seen anyone do that. They do it joking around and everybody’s completely awkward with it. Luke was able to switch and learn to do it in a couple of weeks,” Schreifels said.

Schreifels said Rodarte found a way to succeed instead of just giving up.

“I was one of the top seats going into the meet. So there was certainly an expectation for me to win the title. So being able to manage that, and then, you know, make it happen in the moment was certainly special,” Rodarte said.

Things were not the same for Nybo either. Coach Schreifels said Nybo graduating and finishing during the pandemic last year wasn’t what he wanted. 

“AJ has kept our program together and kept it in the national spotlight all those years, so he didn’t want to finish with a COVID ending. He wanted to finish on his own terms. And so he got into graduate school, competed this year as a fifth year and absolutely ended the season and ended his whole career the way he wanted,” Schreifels said.

In a Zoom interview, Nybo said he appreciated getting to spend time with the team and found a new perspective being able to enjoy the whole process. 

“Whether or not I swimmed fast, I was just happy that I got the chance to swim,” Nybo said. 

This was actually Nybo’s first full year as a college swimmer because of the pandemic.

“So getting to experience the season from start to finish, and to just build the relationships and the bonds with my teammates was something that I was going to definitely cherish and appreciate along the way,” Nybo said. 

Nybo said he is looking forward to always including swimming as part of his workout as well as spending time surfing. 

Rodarte has a great shot at racing for the Olympic team in three years, Schreifels said. 

“So to kind of jump through all the hoops and, you know, manage the ups and downs and then be able to pull together at the end of the year makes all of the moments ever challenging worth it,” Rodarte said.

Both Nybo and Rodarte said in their interviews they could not have done what they accomplished without the support of their team. 

“Luke and I definitely cannot do it without them. Like you said earlier it’s such a physically and mentally draining sport. Like you really really rely on the people around you to support you and help you grow through the whole season,” Nybo said.

Coach Schreifels said he sees the both of them as hard working. 

“Both of those guys give it their 100% every day. And it’s amazing. It’s absolutely impressive to see and I’ve coached over a dozen Olympians. I’ve coached many national champions. I’ve coached, you know, the highest levels of division one, and these guys are as dedicated or more than anyone I’ve ever coached. It’s amazing. They absolutely earned everything that they got,” Schreifels said.