Andrew Langenfeld of Purdue University set a conference record in winning the 50-yard freestyle at Thursday's Big Ten men's swimming and diving championships at Purdue's aquatic center. Langenfeld, who is openly gay, won in a conference-record time of 19.34, beating the old mark of 19.35 set in 2005 by Matt Grevers.
"It was a great day," Langenfeld said. "I was really excited. I was a little concerned initially when I got mono (in December), how that would affect my taper and everything, but I kept my eye on the prize, tried to stay as focused as possible and it worked out for the 50. I'm really happy about everything."
Langenfeld, 22 and a senior, swam in last year's U.S. Olympic swim trials. The 50-free is known as the "spalsh and dash," being the shortest competitive race in the sport. Langenfeld, 6-6, had the fastest time at the turn and went on to the win. A year ago, in the same race, he finished 13th.
"He's a go-to guy," men's swimming coach Dan Ross told the Exponent, Purdue's independent newspaper, before the Big Ten finals. "He's a show stopper; he's the guy that can win events for you against just about every level of team out there. And that's something we don't have on the team, other than him."
Before the meet this week, Langenfeld posted this on his Facebook profile: "Andrew is shaving for Big Tens. How much blood can I shed?" After his win, friends posted messages of congratulations, including this from a female friend: "marry me? :) Congrats, that so exciting and you're awesome!"
The swimmer told Outsports last year that he has not encountered any homophobia despite being out, and that he has helped network other gay jocks, both in and out of the closet.
"Swimming is definitely one of the sports that is more accepting of gay athletes," Langenfeld says. "It might be because of the close relationship we all have. I mean, we're all running around in small bathing suits, so we're all very close, there's a very intimate level between us. So when our friends or teammates comes out, you don't look at the sexuality factor."
Out of the pool, Langenfeld is a Spanish and applied linguistics major and speaks seven languages in addition to English.
"I really like languages a lot," he said, with hardly any hint of irony embedded in his statement. "I think I probably do have a talent for languages, but I also enjoy (learning them). I read a ton - just anything I can get my hands on."
A scholar and an athlete, Langenfeld can now add Big Ten Champ to his resume.