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UC swimmer has eyes on defending conference title

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After taking first place his freshman season in the 400-meter individual medley at the American Athletic Conference championship, University of Cincinnati swimmer Ryan DePietro will be aiming next week to keep his conference title.

Following the victory last year, DePietro said it took him a minute to realize the magnitude of his accomplishment.

“I didn’t really know how much it meant until after it actually happened,” DePietro said. “It was really important with how many points went to the team. Everything that the race meant once I looked at it, and it sunk in, it was pretty cool.”

DePietro knows repeating will not be easy, as the rest of the conference will try to de-throne him.

“I definitely feel some pressure after winning it last year,” DePietro said. “I keep reminding myself that since I won last year I’m definitely going to have this target on my back.”

Despite the added pressure, he feels the title gives him the ability to not only lead himself to a successful finish this season, but also his teammates.

“I think it has shown me what it takes to win, the amount of work that must be put in to win an event,” DePietro said. “I’ve been able to show the freshman and the other guys what it takes in these situations.”

With wins against rivals Xavier University and Miami University, DePietro said this is the best swim team the Bearcats have had in a while and he expects big things in the conference championship.

“I expect a lot better finish than we had last year when we got fourth,” DePietro said. “I think we can do a lot better than that. We’ve brought in a good freshman and transfer class and everyone who was here last year has gotten better. We should score a lot more points than we did last year.”

Despite DePietro’s first place finish last year, his favorite memory came midway through this season at the Hoosierland Invitational. There, he was able to cut his 400-meter individual medley time qualified for the United States Olympic Trials in June.

After a career finish, DePietro received a text from his brother Chris, who is a swimmer for Ohio State University and was his role model growing up.

“He’s always been a great swimmer, so naturally I looked up to him. We swam on the same teams and I always tried to mimic what he did,” DePietro said. “He texted me and said congratulations and it’s a great moment and told me to enjoy it while it lasts after he had found out I won. That was really big for me.”

Outside the pool DePietro is majoring in neurobiology and is a Taekwondo black belt. He plans to attend graduate school, though he is still unsure of what field.

The American Conference Championships begin Wednesday in Houston.