The Queens University of Charlotte Royals have become the benchmark for both men’s and women’s swimming in Division II in recent years. Head coach Jeff Dugdale, the reigning NCAA Coach of the Year, has led both squads to consecutive national titles the past two seasons, the first titles in school history. This season, the men currently sit atop the nation, landing at No. 1 in the most recent CSCAA Coaches Poll.
The Royals have a bevy of talented swimmers on the men’s team, like All-American junior Nicholas Arakelian, who won an individual championship last season and already has a College Swimming Swimmer of the Week Award under his belt this season. They also feature junior Dion Dreesens, who is amid a very special year.
Dreesens came to the Royals from Venray, Netherlands. He is tremendous in stature, standing at 6-foot-7. A combination of things brought Dreesens to Charlotte — coach Dugdale, the brand new facilities and his education, for example — but the camaraderie of a team blended of international and domestic talent helped Dreesens with a seamless transition.
“The community revolving around Queens and the swim team and coaches made me feel at home from the start,” Dreesens said of his transition. “I'm also majoring in sports management with a minor in marketing in one of the best business schools in North Carolina. I also liked the presence, interaction and acceptance of a combined group of Americans and Internationals. From the start there was a lot of team bonding, and this only continued to grow and grow over the years. And then there is the brand new Levine Center, with our own pool, and excellent other facilities that we can make use of.”
During last season’s championship run, Dreesens stole the show. He was the individual National Champion in the 1000, 500 and 200 freestyle while claiming All-American honors in both individual and relay events. Like Patri Castro Ortega on the Royals women’s team, he was both the NCAA Swimmer of the Meet at the national championships as well as the Bluegrass Mountain Conference Swimmer of the Year.
“Last year was a perfectly planned year with some side roads eventually leading me to the right outcomes,” Dreesens said. “My coach, Jeff Dugdale, prepared me by taking me to various stops in the Arena Grand Prix series, in preparation of making the Olympic Team, and I extended my taper from the Orlando Grand Prix into NCAA's, which went really well. It felt great to be part of our team, winning individual and team events, and to win our second national championship in a row. Each night after a long day of racing, the men's team would come together in one of the hotel rooms and would share their experiences, and we would prepare for another exciting day of racing. The team cohesion was at an all-time high.”
His amazing 2015-16 season didn’t end with the championships, however. Dreesens would head to Brazil to represent both his college but more importantly, his home country, in the Summer Olympics.
“Rio has been very rewarding to me as an athlete,” Dreesens said. “I know I have become much more mature these last couple of months — and even years — working hard with a day-to-day focus in reminder of the upcoming Olympics. Swimming the finals in Rio was definitely an all-time high in my career and left me with even more energy and excitement for upcoming years.”
This week, Dreesens is north of the border, competing in the Fina World Swimming Championships, representing his home country once again. His teammate, Marius Kusch of Germany, also swam, as Queens was represented by three swimmers in all. Dreesens took part in a relay, something he has become very comfortable with over the years.
Kusch, Dreesens, and Talanova Compete in Short Course World Championships https://t.co/yVGybcGIBH— Queens Athletics (@QueensAthletics) December 7, 2016
“To be honest, I am more relaxed in a relay,” Dreesens said. “I see it as more fun, and the atmosphere among our group of four is always good. Swimming relays, as part of Queens and the Netherlands is something that came to start recently in the last two years, and has a sort of 'new-factor' to it, making it exciting and interesting to do. It is also ever-changing — whether it is the position or the group. I am trying to include that component in my individual swims.”
Dreesens and his teammates are looking to extend their dominance, going for their third championship in a row. Division II swimming has seemingly always been a sport of team dominance. Programs like Cal State Northridge and Cal State Bakersfield saw sustained eras of glory, while most recently Drury saw a 10-year run in which it took home the national title in every season. There is no doubt that the Royals men talk about it and hope they are laying that very foundation for their program.
“Drury has done something extraordinary and remarkable these last years, and I am sure they are trying to regain their title and would like to beat their own streak of 10 years,” Dreesens said. “I am honored I could help my team to the second national championship win in a row, and we can only strive that with the consistency of excellent coaching, and the incoming of new athletes we can successfully defend our titles over the years to come. Of course there is talk about competitors, but we try to keep our focus to ourselves, our goals, and the training that needs to be done. Without competitors, and unsuspected happenings, sport would simply not be sport. That’s the beauty of it.”