-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Men’s Swimming and Diving: Philosopher-‘King’ garners inspiration from academia

Megan Golden | Monday, December 5, 2011

As a veteran presence on an Irish roster loaded with freshmen, senior swimmer Jonathan Whitcomb takes pride in his leadership. The team poet and entertainer is chasing his dreams of becoming a master of knowledge, while offering his teammates a taste of his wisdom.

Whitcomb’s day begins at the sound of his alarm at 5:27 a.m., when he heads to the pool for his first workout of the day. He and his housemate, senior swimmer Kevin Rahill, return from Rolfs Aquatic Center and spend time relaxing with a book during breakfast.

An avid reader of both Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway, Whitcomb is double-majoring in English and Anthropology.

Studying a variety of material, he said, will prepare him for his future endeavors.

“I have a lot of different career goals. I don’t like working that much. I would love to be a king and a master of knowledge,” he said. “I just think that it’s important to cover lots of realms of academia, and I try to do that as much as I can. I feel like, today, a lot of jobs limit what you can do in terms of that aspect.”

Notre Dame professor of Anthropology Carolyn Nordstrom has inspired Whitcomb to follow his interests, regardless of the naysayers.

“Professor Nordstrom has been the wisest and most engaging professor I’ve had. She totally and completely encourages you to follow your passion and be confident in what you’re doing,” he said. “That includes almost listening to no one else, even someone older than you that you might, from a social status, think that they know better than you. She really encourages you to trust what you, personally, believe. I think that’s really cool and something that you don’t find very often from any professor.”

Whitcomb, called “King” by his teammates, said he descends from a German noble, his great-grandfather Bengt von Rosen. Whitcomb recently traveled to Germany to discover more about his lineage.

“They were a very noble family — barons and baronesses, I believe. That’s kind of my lineage, and I’m just kind of a royal man,” he said. “[The Germans we spoke with] had all sorts of songs and stories about the von Rosens, and they were pretty excited to have us there. It was a small town, so it was kind of a big event to have us there. [My teammates] say they call me the King, and I was treated like a king when I went back to my home land.”

Whitcomb said he enjoys traveling in his free time. Asked to provide his wisest piece of life advice, he emphasized the importance of understanding different ways of life.

“Explore the world, and don’t be afraid of it. I think a lot of people limit [their goals] to what they think they can do and what their future options can be, especially outside of college,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s very important to maintain more of a global perspective and not necessarily get caught up in what the American culture might tell you is the key to success. Explore your options, and don’t give up on your true passion in life.”

Whitcomb began his swimming career at the age of five. The youngest of five boys, he had little choice but to follow the path of his older brothers, two of which swam at Nebraska.

Whitcomb’s extensive reign as the youngest family member led to a sort of role reversal this season.

A senior on a Notre Dame team of 16 freshmen, the King does not need to search far to find service. Whitcomb said he is a firm believer that the freshmen must occupy the front of the bus.

“The king would demand respect, and that’s certainly what I do,” he said. “Certainly over the past few years, the younger guys have immediately realized that I need to be treated like a king. That involves putting away my stuff after practice or just being very courteous. [Having 16 freshmen on the team is] nice — definitely a good following for a kingly man.”

Whitcomb said he believes the freshman class is a special group of swimmers, and he is confident they have a bright future in the program.

“I think myself and the senior class [have] done a good job of kind of showing them the way, and they seem to be fitting in very nicely. [The season] started off and [having a team of 16 freshmen] felt weird, but now it feels completely normal,” Whitcomb said.

“It’s cool. It’s exciting for the time after I graduate. I think we’re headed in the right direction [with] the amount of guys we have and the talent that they’re bringing in.”

Whitcomb and the Irish will return to action Jan. 6 at Copa Coqui in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Contact Megan Golden at mgolde01@saintmarys.edu