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Barrow athlete gets to swim with nation's best Olympians

POSTED: July 5, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Photo Courtesy Joe Cardwell/

Ian Hentenaar, a Winder native who is also a member of the Athens Bulldog Swim Club, works his backstroke during the Northeast Division 2014 event. Hentenaar will compete against Olympians Phelps and Locthe.

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The world’s best swimmers are coming to north Georgia, and one Barrow County resident will get to join them in the pool.

The Bulldog Grand Slam, which is taking place July 10 through 13, is bringing Olympic rivals and fellow Team USA representatives Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte to the Gabrielsen Natatorium on-campus at the University of Georgia. Winder’s own Ian Hentenaar, as a member of the host Athens Bulldogs Swim Club, will get to swim alongside some of America’s best.

“I’m really excited about it,” Hentenaar said. “One of my hopes is that I could possibly be in the same heat as some of those guys.”

Hentenaar swims for both Winder-Barrow High School and for the Athens Bulldog Swim Club, and he has found success for both organizations. 

The combined Swim Dogg and Swim Dog finished 12th (48.51) in the GHSA State Finals 100-meter finals for classifications A through AAAAA in February, helping Winder-Barrow High School grab the 30th place spot.

Through the Athens Bulldogs, Hentenaar most recently competed and showed excellent times at the Tom Lalor Invitiational in Pensacola earlier in June.

Hentenaar won five events at the weekend invitational, including the 400-meter individual medley relay, 200-meter butterfly stroke, 400-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley race and the 1,500-meter freestyle. He participated in 12 different races and received points for each while finishing no lower than fourth in any event. 

As a result of his excellent day, Hentenaar received the high-points trophy for the athlete who scores the single most points out of all the competitors.

For his great effort and improvement, this double dog will get the chance to swim in one of the largest events of the year.

The Bulldog Grand Slam will feature 12 of the best swimming clubs on the east coast. According to meet director Jonathan Foggin, it is a landmark event for the ABSC.

“It’s really exciting for us. We’ve hosted big meets before…but never in this concentration,” Foggin acknoweledged. “It’s a tremendous event for us.”

The mid-July invitational was originally conceived as a stop-gap on the training circuit to offer swimmers a quality competition when no other meets existed. It was also originally held to just three teams.

“It was really a situation where three top coaches got together and wanted to fill a gap in the training schedule,” Foggin noted.

Those three coaches were Jack Bauerle of UGA and Athens Bulldog notoriety, Bob Bowman of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club and David Marsh of SwimMac. North Baltimore happens to be the home of Olympic-record holder and all-time great Phelps while his supposed successor to Olympic gold, Lochte, swims for SwimMac.

While the three coaches had originally intended to keep the meet more low-key with just those three teams, the eventual announcement caused teams from all over the country to register their athletes.

“When other folks heard this was going on, they wanted in,” Foggin explained. “We had to be careful for numbers so it would still be a good meet for training purposes.”

Even though the event will be saturated with talent from all across America, Foggin was sure to add that there is a very prominent place for local, up-and-coming athletes like Hentenaar.

“One of the goals of USA Swimming is building a base,” Foggin reassured. “The more we can get young swimmers exposed to this level of talent and we can promote the sport, the better off our future will be.”

For Hentenaar, this means the chance of a lifetime. Each team, including the host-Bulldogs, are allowed to have as many as 40 of their top swimmers compete in the Bulldog Grand Slam.

The ABSC is largely comprised of college swimmers for UGA, including Megan Romano and Shannon Vreeland, so the Grand Slam roster was equally full up on college level talent. Fan favorite Allison Schmitt will also be participating as a member of NBAC, although she is a UGA student-athlete.

The remaining spots, though, went to the best non-college swimmers for the Athens Bulldogs, and Hentenaar had worked his way into that elite group of young competitors.

“About six or seven other people from my club made it,” Hentenaar admitted.

Hentenaar will compete in at least seven races, with six of them being the freestyle distance events. From there, he will also participate in the 200- or 100-meter butterfly, and possibly both. With such a diverse set list for Hentenaar, he will see action in the pool each day of the four-day event.

“It’d be really cool because [Phelps and Lochte] could be in the lane right next to me and I could swim right up next to them or race them during warm-up,” Hentenaar stated. “I’d like to compare my times to them and see how my technique looks next to them and maybe learn from that.

“I’m not really looking for competition, because there’s world class people swimming there, but I’m looking especially for personal bests,” Hentenaar added, once again referencing the Tom Lalor meet where he set most all of his current personal records.

Ever since those improvements in the first weekend of June, Hentenaar has had a chance to work with the UGA swim team in their morning workouts, which he admits has brought an additional boost to his training.

“Each day has been hard. I think I’ve been improving a ton, so I’m really excited to see what my times will be,” Hentenaar hoped. 

Swimming alongside household names like Phelps and Locthe will be exciting for the Winder native, no doubt, but the meet is still serious business.

“Hopefully I might not get too sad about how much faster they are, hopefully I’ll get inspired,” Hentenaar mentioned.

Even against such stiff competition, Hentenaar knows he holds one crucial advantage: the home field. Both Hentenaar and his brother, as members of the Athens Bulldogs Swim Club, have spent countless hours in the water at the Gabrielsen Natatorium and feel quite at home in the state-of-the-art facility.

“I don’t think I’ll get caught up. It’s a home meet, so I know the pool and I know what it’s going to feel like,” Hentenaar stated. 

A large part of Hentenaar’s preparation will begin long before he gets in the pool on Thursday, though. For starters, he will be focusing on his diet over the next few days. 

“I’m just basically eating right and not eating unhealthy stuff that will leave me feeling upset or tired,” Hentenaar explained. “I eat stuff that makes me feel energized.”

After the dieting portion of his training is taken care of, Hentenaar moves on the more physical elements of his workout.

“I’m going to make sure I don’t injure myself by doing any stunts. I’ve also got to go to sleep really early,” Hentenaar acknowledged. 

While Hentenaar finishes preparing for this incredible opportunity, fans can prepare to see their Barrow County athlete take on the world’s best at this next weekend’s Bulldog Grand Slam, hosted by the Athens Bulldog Swim Club. 

The meet will take place at the Gabrielsen Natatorium on-campus at the University of Georgia from July 10 through July 13. Fans can purchase All-Session passes for $35 by visiting the ABSC website at Anyone who purchases an All-Session pass will receive a heat sheet to list when different competitors are scheduled to be in the pool. 

For those unable to commit to the full weekend, individual tickets will be sold on a cash-only, first-come-first-served basis at the Ramsey Center ticket booth at a cost of $5 for preliminary rounds and $10 for timed finals rounds. The ticket windows will open one hour before each session.



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