Athletic debuts can be nerve-wracking for college freshmen because of the pressure that comes with performing at a high level. That narrative was never the case for Ball State freshman swimmer Joey Garberick.
Garberick made history in his first-ever race as a Cardinal. In the 100-yard breaststroke against Eastern Illinois Nov. 6, 2020, he set a Lewellen Aquatic Center record with a time of 56.53. He built on that performance in the Butler Invitational Jan. 31, clocking a time of 55.19 in the same event — the second-fastest time in program history.
Garberick’s performance earned him Mid-American Conference Men’s Swimmer of the Week honors Feb. 3. Amid all the success, though, Garberick has reflected on the start of his collegiate career in a humble manner.
“For me, it’s all just a part of the process,” Garberick said. “All the awards and records are nice, but we have work to do.”
Garberick began swimming competitively as a 9-year-old and later participated on his team at Northridge High School. The program collected two conference championships and two sectional titles during his tenure. He said these experiences gave him the foundation to succeed at the collegiate level, and he sees similarities between his high school environment and that of Ball State.
Ball State head coach J. Agnew said he saw program-building traits in Garberick when he recruited him. While scouting a tournament, he immediately noticed Garberick’s presence and became impressed with his versatility. He liked what he saw enough to reach out and bring him to Ball State.
One specific story comes to Agnew’s mind when he reflects on Garberick’s mentality. During the preseason, Agnew called a voluntary workout for a Wednesday, and Garberick was in attendance. While some swimmers just trickled in, Agnew said, he was still ecstatic about the practice’s turnout. Garberick then turned to Agnew and said, “It’s the only way we’re going to get better.”
“Everybody kind of heard that,” Agnew said. “They just took notice, and even the upperclassmen were like, ‘OK, this guy is serious about what he's doing.’ I just think it set a tone that he’s pretty fearless. His goals are high, our team goals are high, but it’s pretty infectious.”
Along with Garberick’s competitive drive, Agnew praised Ball State assistant coach Chris Bals in developing his young collegiate career. Bals swam at Purdue University under Agnew’s leadership and competed in the breaststroke event.
“[Bals] was a really good breaststroker in college, and those two have really dug into a lot of their details together,” Agnew said. “He should be credited for a lot of what him and Joey are doing.”
Agnew said Garberick’s strong start is just the beginning of his career, but he knows his ceiling and potential are through the roof.
“Despite the early success, we both know that there's a long road to go, and this is a good step along the way,” Agnew said. “Both of us envisioned him reaching the highest level and would love to see that guy racing at the NCAA Championship level and making an impact.”
Garberick said he is enjoying his individual success and credits his teammates for helping him reach new heights. He believes the future is bright for both himself and his team.
“It's hard to imagine doing anything without the people I’m with every single day,” Garberick said. “I’m very grateful to a lot of the people that have helped me get here. All the coaching, all the team — everyone has been very supportive.”