Alix O’Brien proves herself for Iowa swimming and diving

The Division III transfer has taken home five first-place finishes for the Hawkeyes this season.


Vincenzo Mazza

Iowa’s Alix O’Brien can be seen finishing first in her heat in the 500 yard Free Style during day one of the 2022 Hawkeye Invitational and the Campus Recreational and Wellness Center in Iowa City on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. O’Brien had a Final time of 4:54:14 coming in 9th overall. (Vincenzo Mazza/The Daily Iowan)

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

Heading into the 2022-2023 swimming and diving season, Iowa head coach Nathan Mundt knew he had to increase the size of the Hawkeyes’ roster to compete at a high level.

Much of the 2020-21 team transferred out of the program as Iowa Athletics planned to cut the program following the 2020-21 academic year.

While the program was reinstated in February 2021, most of the transferring Hawkeyes were firm in their transfer decisions, leaving the Hawkeyes with just 13 athletes for 2021-22.

Mundt, along with assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Mona Groteguth, increased the roster size from 12 to 22.

And one of those athletes was sophomore Alix O’Brien. Hailing from Apple Valley, Minnesota, O’Brien was one of three transfers to move to Iowa in 2022.

O’Brien came from Denison University, a small Division III school in Granville, Ohio, with only about 2,000 undergraduate students. O’Brien, who graduated from Apple Valley High School in 2021, said COVID-19 depleted her postgraduate options.

“COVID shut down my entire recruiting process when I was a junior and senior in high school,” O’Brien said. “I wanted to go to a program that was still strong, and Denison was perfect for the time being. After a year, I knew I wanted a bigger school.”

The global commerce major said compared to Denison, the University of Iowa has provided her with tons of options academically and athletically.

“Denison is a super small liberal arts school, and this campus is such a change to begin with,” O’Brien said. “There is overall a bigger fanbase for me here because it’s the Big Ten. I have just been enjoying the bigger campus with more things to do.”

O’Brien proved to be a talent for the Big Red in 2021-22. She received All-America honors in four events at NCAA Division III Championships: 500-meter and 1,650-meter freestyle, 400-meter individual medley, and 800-meter freestyle relay.

O’Brien was also the North Coast Athletic Conference 1,650-meter freestyle champion while placing second in both the 500-meter freestyle and 400-meter individual medley.

“Alix was very successful at Denison her freshman year,” Mundt said. “I think, in the recruiting process, she wanted to have experience at a higher level. It is great to see her have success, but she has certainly worked for it.”

O’Brien has placed first in five events so far this season, becoming an immediate contributor for Mundt and the Hawkeyes.

While the transition has been smooth so far this season, O’Brien was a little surprised with the jump in the level of competition. She wasn’t used to the overall talent depth she sees now in the Big Ten.

“There is a lot more depth in the Big Ten,” O’Brien said. “At Denison, there would be a lot of fast girls on the top one and two spots, but from there it drops off a little more. In the Big Ten, it is fast all the way through. You are going to see competitiveness whether you are in 24th or first.”

The Hawkeyes will head to the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from Feb. 15-18.