When Casey McEuen swam for the Lebanon Warriors, he expected to win every time he stepped up onto the starting blocks.

His confidence was justified as a two-time Prep Swimmer of the Year and the holder of five individual state titles and two relay state championships.

This past year competing for the the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, McEuen gained a different perspective. 

"It was a little surprising," McEuen said. "It didn't go quite as I had anticipated it to be, but I think I was just working out some of the bugs."

McEuen focused on the 100 butterfly, the 100 freestyle and the 50 freestyle for the Rebels, whose men's swimming and diving squads in the Western Athletic Conference.

McEuen knew that moving from high school swimming to Division I would be a challenge, but there was no way of really understanding the increased level of competition without experiencing it first-hand.

"When you step on the blocks at that level, the Division I level, you are racing people that are just as fast, if not faster. Older people than you, seniors, juniors in college that are much older, bigger, stronger, more experienced, so it's a whole other ballgame," McEuen said.

Because the results are different than what he had experienced in the past, it was important to keep a good attitude and not get discouraged, especially during the long and difficult training sessions.

In addition to the increased level of competition, McEuen had to get to know a new group of coaches and teammates and get accustomed to different training practices. That included lifting weights, which was not part of the routine at Lebanon High.

"It's very different than the Lebanon High School Team but yeah, I enjoyed it," McEuen said, pointing to fellow freshmen Michael Klauss, from Arizona, and Ivan Zhukau, of Belarus.

Zhukau had immediate success as a freshman and won the freshman of the meet award at the WAC championships.

McEuen said Zhukau has discussed his teenage European training regimen, which was substantially different than is typical for American swimmers.

There was certainly a step up in training intensity at UNLV.

"It was very rigorous," McEuen said.

He trains with the sprinters, who average 4,000 to 5,000 yards per practice. The distance groups averaged more than 10,000 yards per practice and the  middle-distance swimmers averaged about 7,000 yards.

While the sprinters cover fewer yards in each practice, they swim with greater intensity. There are pace clocks around the pool and laps are timed to make sure the swimmers are hitting the marks assigned by the coaches.

"You're always swimming fast and trying to hit a certain mark in a certain time," McEuen said.

Over the summer, he will train with the Corvallis Aquatic Team. One immediate goal is to get as close as possible to the cutoff team for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 50 freestyle. 

"We'll see how that pans out. If I don't make it this summer, I might have a couple opportunities during my college year to go after that," McEuen said.

The university experience is about more than just swimming. McEuen is majoring in film and had a strong year in the classroom, earning recognition on the 2018-19 Academic All-WAC team for freshmen.

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