Breaking Barriers

Joe Hancock breaks 27 year-old Dowling record in the 500 freestyle set by Andy Eckerman


Chris Pose

Joe Hancock (12) celebrating after a fantastic swim with a new record.

Caroline Schultz, Staff Writer

Dowling Alum, Andy Eckerman, made his mark on Dowling swimming by setting the school record for the 500 freestyle in 1994. Eckerman’s record would go on to taunt Dowling distance swimmers for almost three decades. However, at the 2021 high school state meet, Joe Hancock (11) finally smashed Eckerman’s record by over a second with a time of 4:30.40, while also placing second in the state. 


“I knew Joey was going to break that record, it was just a matter of when throughout his career,” Dowling Swimming Head Coach Nick Spike said. 


Although Hancock’s coach may have had complete faith in his ability to shatter the record, Hancock wasn’t so sure he’d get it done. 


“While I was swimming [the race] I didn’t think I was on pace, and I was wondering if I would actually get it. I also didn’t want to get third, so I was also thinking about that,” Hancock said.  


According to his coach, Hancock is an enjoyable swimmer to coach, especially when he has a goal in mind.


“Joey is a blast to coach. He is a swimmer who is able to set the mood of practice for the entire team because of his high-energy and leadership abilities. It was amazing to see him set the goal this season, train hard, and achieve his goal,” Spike said.


Although Hancock is already one of the fastest distance swimmers in Iowa, it’s hard to believe he still has another season left in his high school career. However, Hancock is already looking at the next level of competition.


“I’m talking to D1 colleges all over the place,” Hancock said.


Hancock is not the only one with big expectations. His coach is expecting his last season as a Maroon to be an exceptional one. 


“Joey’s senior year will be big. I am expecting to see the Hancock name up on the record board in a few other events between Joey and his twin brother, Tommy. I know he will be able to work hard and accomplish whatever he puts his mind to,” Spike said.


According to Hancock, it feels “pretty good” to smash such an iconic record. But how does it feel to have your long-standing record broken? The Post caught up with Dowling Alum and former Texas swimmer Andy Eckerman on what this special moment meant to him.


The Dowling Catholic Swimming record board, featuring Andy Eckerman’s iconic record! (Samara Tumea)

“I would not have guessed [the record] would stick around this long,” Eckerman said. 


Eckerman had an outstanding swimming career for Dowling, achieving not only the school record in the 500 Freestyle but also the state record his senior year. He went on to have a successful career at the University of Texas after high school. 


“We won NCAAs my sophomore year, we won the Division 1 Championship. My best year probably was my senior year, that would’ve been the ‘98 National Championships. I still didn’t do great, I went into the meet 13th in the nation and I think I finished 20th,” Eckerman said. 


Eckerman and Hancock connected earlier in the season to chat about the possibility of a new name gracing the Dowling recordboard. 


“It was around the beginning of the season, maybe January. His dad and I connected, and he didn’t really warn Joey but threw him on the phone with me,” Eckerman said. “I didn’t get the chance to personally congratulate Joey after he broke the record, so make sure to congratulate him for me!” 


Eckerman hasn’t forgotten his glory days at Dowling Catholic, and he still enjoys keeping tabs on the team. 


“I don’t know if I would say I’m a superfan but I’ve kept track over the years. Coach Crouch is still a friend. For many years I would check in and see how he’s doing and how the team’s done. I’ve talked to a handful of swimmers over the years for one reason or another, so I definitely keep track,” Eckerman said. 


Although Eckerman still looks back on his high school swimming career with pride, he was excited to see Hancock’s success. 


“I’m very excited for him, right? I’m not like ‘oh too bad.’ It’s like no, that’s great for him. Happy for him…super excited for [him] to see the success [he’s] having and to see that record broken,” Eckerman said. 


Although Hancock is ecstatic about his new record, it’s clear that his supporters are just as thrilled about his recent accomplishment. 


“I will never forget the look on his face when he looked at the clock to see his time,” Spike said.