For NCAA Division III Sportsman of the Year Isaac Rothenbaum, it’s not always about yourself. Sometimes, it’s not always even about your own team. Just ask Carthage College men’s swimmer Isaac Rothenbaum (Jr., Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest). On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 21, 2009, Rothenbaum showed his teammates and a certain Wheaton College swimmer a generosity of spirit that garnered Rothenbaum the 2008-09 NCAA Division III Sportsmanship Award.
Last February, the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Swimming Championship was held at the Wheaton College (Ill.) Chrouser Fitness Center Pool in Wheaton, Ill. Carthage was en route to wrapping up its third conference championship in four years and second in a row. In between the preliminaries and the finals, Rothenbaum, who would later be named the “most outstanding participant,” noticed a Wheaton swimmer getting ready to begin a time trial in the 100 breaststroke. The Thunder’s Jonathan Nitz was trying to qualify for a spot in the NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming Championship. Seeing that Nitz had no one in the water with him for the time trial, Rothenbaum told his gathered teammates that they should stop what they were doing up and cheer on their conference competitor.
With the support of Rothenbaum and his fellow Red Men, Nitz proceeded to turn in a national-qualifying time. That beats shaking your opponent’s hand anytime.
Rothenbaum, a double major in computer science and graphic design, has been named to the Carthage dean’s list three times. He finished fourth in the CCIW 200 freestyle, eighth in the 100 freestyle and was part of a conference-championship 800 freestyle relay team. As a freshman, he didn’t make the travel roster for Carthage’s trip to Wheaton for the conference championship.