Last summer, with the entire world watching, junior Anton Ipsen fulfilled a dream that so many young swimmers hold, but very few ever reach. He took his mark in front of a stadium full of people, and dove into a pool like he had done so many times before in his life. However, this time was different. It was Rio. It was the Olympics and he had accomplished what so many before him had failed to. He was an Olympian.
“I always have that on my legacy,” Ipsen said. “I’ve already achieved a very high level, and I just want to achieve even more.
Ipsen is from Birkerod, Denmark, a small town of just over 20,000 people on the outskirts of Copenhagen. He is a junior at NC State, studying industrial engineering, and dominating all his competition in the pool. Swimming has always been a part of Ipsen’s life, and has been something he has loved for a long time.
“I really started competitive swimming when I was 10 or 11,” Ipsen said. “I realized this was what I wanted to do when I was about 16, when I started high school. I was like, ‘This is what makes me happy and this is what I’m good at.’ So, that is why I continued the sport.”
Ipsen isn’t the first swimmer to find his way to State from Denmark. He followed in the path of seniors Soren Dahl and Andreas Schiellerup. Ipsen did say that this was one of the reasons he ended up in Raleigh, but also emphasized how much he liked what head coach Braden Holloway and his staff had to offer.
“I was enthused by Braden’s, and the coaching staff’s, energy and the team’s development,” Ipsen said. “I just wanted to be a part of something bigger and part of a brotherhood. I really felt like I got that here.”
Regardless of why Ipsen ended up a member of the Wolfpack, he has been nothing but successful since joining the program. As a freshman, Ipsen won the ACC Championship in the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle en route to being named ACC Freshman of the Year.
Ipsen went on to sweep the two distance events at the ACC Championships again in his sophomore season, and was named to the All-American Team. His dominance in the distance events is what has made him one of the most formidable swimmers in the nation, and Ipsen credits that success to hard work and dedication in the pool, something associate coach Gary Taylor, who works with long-distance swimmers, says Ipsen is full of.
“He’s a competitor; he hates losing,” Taylor said. “He enjoys success. He is one of the very best training athletes I’ve ever coached, which you can see in the outcome. He’s tenacious. He’s a fighter. He does everything at a high level. He just goes 110 percent all the time.”
The long-distance events have become the specialty of Ipsen, and that shows if you look at the NC State record book. He holds the all-time record in both the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle at State. His best time of 14:35.35 in the 1,650 is more than 30 seconds faster than the NC State record when he started.
Ipsen is also closing in on multiple ACC records. His fastest time in the 1,650-yard freestyle is just 0.23 seconds slower than the ACC record, and he also is within five seconds in the 500-yard freestyle. Ipsen says he is honored by his school records, but isn’t satisfied. He also understands that records are made to be broken, and hopes he doesn’t hold onto them for long.
“It’s always an honor,” Ipsen said. “But I’m also hungry for more. I’m looking at the ACC record. I want to break my own record. And, I also want my teammates to break my record. That would make me extremely happy, if someone could come and challenge my records.”
Perhaps the only thing that can rival Ipsen’s successes in the pool are his successes in the classroom. He currently holds a 4.0 GPA while studying industrial engineering, and has been named to the All-ACC Academic Team in both of the two previous seasons. He was also recently honored as one of the Top Ten Scholar-Athletes at NC State.
The life of a student-athlete is hectic, and to many it would seem like the added stress of playing a sport at such a high level would have a negative impact on academics. Ipsen doesn’t see it this way, and in fact credits swimming with why he has been so successful as a student.
“If I didn’t have swimming, I don’t think I would be performing as good in school,” Ipsen said. “I know I have to get my stuff done in order to be ready for my swimming, or else I would be stressed. You can only swim fast at practice and at competition if you’re relaxed and focused. If you don’t have your things done in a timely manner, then you’re not relaxed and focused at practices.”
Ipsen’s incredible success as a student comes as no surprise to Taylor, who praised Ipsen for being both analytical and cerebral. Taylor also lauded Ipsen for his maturity and drive in both the classroom and the pool, and emphasized that Ipsen’s ability to make proactive decisions is what makes him truly special.
“Great athletes like him are naturally gifted,” Taylor said. “They also think and react and know that every decision has an outcome. That’s what makes him special. He is thinking about things that most 21-year-olds are not. That’s why he is not only one of the best in the ACC or NCAA, he is one of the very best endurance-based swimmers in the entire world.”
The future is still very bright for Ipsen, but he isn’t sure what it may hold. He says he wants to compete for national championships this year and next year. As for after State, he wants to return to Denmark to obtain a master’s degree in engineering. In the pool, he says he isn’t sure what he will do, but he may swim through 2020.
In the years Ipsen has been at State, the men’s swimming team has reached heights like never before. The Wolfpack record books are filled with members from this year’s team, and there is no reason this won’t continue in the years to come. Ipsen’s career is far from over at State, but he is already looking ahead to the legacy that he and his teammates will leave.
“We are a brotherhood like no other,” Ipsen said. “If I had to describe it one word, I would say legacy. We talk a lot about legacy on the men’s team. How we can leave a legacy, and how we can make a legacy 20 years from now.”