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Excellence the norm for Wauconda’s Swenson
By Patricia Babcock McGraw | Daily Herald Columnist

Wauconda’s Austin Swenson will make his college decision based on the quality of the school’s engineering program.


Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Wauconda’s Austin Swenson will calculate his college decision mainly based on the quality of the school’s engineering program.


Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/13/2012 11:34 PM

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Football, basketball, baseball.

Football, basketball, baseball.

Football, basketball, baseball.

Football, basketball, and soon-to-be baseball.

As a soon-to-be three-sport athlete for four straight years, Wauconda senior Austin Swenson knows what it’s like to be under the gun.

His entire high school career has been a continuous exercise of balancing an accelerated academic curriculum with the rigorous demands of not one, not two but three sports that each require year-round training.

“It can be a real struggle at times,” said Swenson, an honors student.

And yet, that struggle can’t even compare to the strain and pressure that Swenson has been under this week.

His dream college, Rose-Hulman, an engineering juggernaut in southern Indiana, came to visit him on Thursday.

The 6-foot-2 Swenson wants to play football in college, and he generated plenty of interest last fall after passing for 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to a playoff berth. But over the past couple of months, he’s turned away one school after another because the academic fit wasn’t quite right.

Nowhere in the country has Swenson been able to find the kind of specific four-year undergraduate civil engineering program he’s looking for … except for at Rose-Hulman.

So if Swenson didn’t convince the Rose-Hulman coaches during their visit that he’s the perfect quarterback for them, his dream college and his dream engineering program might be out of reach. He would need the financial assistance he’d get as a football player in order to afford Rose-Hulman’s $55,000 per year price tag.

“The last few months have been very stressful,” said Swenson, who boasts nearly a 3.9 grade point average in mostly accelerated classes. “I haven’t been finding many of the engineering programs I want, and when I do, it’s about trying to find the right fit with football, too.

“I already visited Rose-Hulman and that’s my No. 1 school. The coaches wanted to come here and visit me just to talk to me again and find out more about me. It’s another chance for them to see my face, and see how interested I am in them. It’s also a chance for me to get their interest higher in me. I’m hoping that I boost their confidence in me.”

While Swenson spent the better part of the last week devising his strategy for how to work the Rose-Hulman coaches, he’s been working out his stresses on the basketball court.

“Basketball is his break,” Wauconda basketball coach Scott Luetschwager said. “This is fun for him.”

Indeed, these days, Swenson’s second-best sport has become like a best friend, comfortable, easy, welcoming, fun and best of all, uncomplicated. He was all smiles Monday, even though his visit with the Rose-Hulman coaches loomed, after scoring a game-high 16 points on two 3-pointers in a win over Woodstock North.

“It’s been nice to get on the basketball court and just play and not worry about what’s going on with colleges and my application with Rose-Hulman and the coaches there,” said Swenson, a quick and slippery shooting guard. “I really like playing basketball a lot. It’s right there after football for me.”

Swenson began playing football in fifth grade. For four years before that, soccer was Swenson’s fall sport, which means that he has been sustaining a three-sport rotation for the last 12 years.

“He’s a rare breed,” Wauconda football coach Dave Mills said of Swenson. “You don’t see many kids like Austin anymore.”

Indeed, the three-sport athlete, let alone the three-sport athlete four times over is a dying breed. Specialization and demanding off-season training programs have caused that.

But Swenson says he never gave a passing thought to eliminating one of his sports. He loves them all too much.

“I’ve always wanted to be a 12-sport athlete in high school,” said Swenson, a utility player in baseball who has done everything from pitch to play third base. “Only a handful of athletes at Wauconda have ever done it and I want to be in that group.

“I remember thinking when I was a freshman that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it because it would be such a struggle with school and everything else. But I’ve enjoyed every second of it and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to stick with it and get it done.”

Swenson would love to get his college decision over and done with. The sooner, the better.

He’s optimistic that Rose-Hulman will work out, but waiting to know for sure won’t be easy. The coaches could contact him with their answer anytime between now and signing day in February.

“It’s kind of a risky situation for me that I put pretty much all of my eggs in one basket,” Swenson said. “But at the same time, I know it’s the right thing.”