Men’s swimming and diving looks to defend NCAA title

Date: March 2016

Published: The Daily Texan

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Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Last year, the Longhorn men’s swimming and diving team showed up to the NCAA championship meet and dominated, taking home the title by 129 points over second-place California.

Now, 17 swimmers and three divers, along with all five relay teams, are in Atlanta for this year’s championships, looking to put up a repeat performance.

Last season, sophomore All-American Joseph Schooling became the first Longhorn to win NCAA titles in both the 100 and 200 butterfly events, both of which he will return to as the top seed this year.

All-American junior Jack Conger will return to the NCAAs after finishing as the runner-up behind Schooling in both the 100 and 200 butterfly events in last year’s competition. Conger currently holds the American record in the 200 butterfly, where he will enter as the No. 2 seed.

Will Licon, an All-American junior, will make his third straight NCAA Championship appearance after winning the 400 individual medley and 200 breaststroke in last year’s competition. Licon will compete in the 200 individual medley, 400 individual medley and 200 breaststroke.

All-American junior Clark Smith was the first Longhorn to win the 500 freestyle at the NCAAs last year. Smith will return to the NCAAs as the top seed in the event as well as the 1,650 freestyle swim, and the 10th seed in the 200 freestyle.

On the diving side of the competition, senior Cory Bowersox will return to the national championships, where he is a three-time All-American in the one-meter dive. Joining Bowersox will be junior teammates Mark Anderson, who earned All-American honors on the one-meter, three-meter and platform in last year’s championships, and Sean O’Brien, who will compete in the meet for the first time.

Wednesday marks the start of the championships with the 800 freestyle relay.

Longhorns shatter records in 800 freestyle relay

Date: March 2016

Published: The Daily Texan

The top-ranked men’s swimming and diving team opened the first night of the NCAA Championships with a record-breaking finish in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The victory marked Texas’ 13th NCAA title in the event.

The relay team of Jack Conger, Townley Haas, Clark Smith and Joseph Schooling clocked in at 6 minutes, 8.03 seconds, breaking a litany of records. Their time sealed the NCAA, U.S. Open, Big 12, meet, school and pool records, all previously held by Michigan.

“I talked to Eddie, and he told me to get out as fast as I could in the first 100,” Conger said, “And then to start building that last 100, work my walls and take more kicks after each 25 [yards].”

Haas — the only freshman in the relay quartet — followed Conger, recording the fastest 200 freestyle split of all time.

“It’s just incredible,” Haas said. “It’s great to help keep up this tradition we have here in the 800 free relay. Most of my race strategies involve going out and trying to hang on, and I hung on well.”

Smith and Schooling swam the final two legs of the race before finally finishing 1.82 seconds faster than the record.

Texas leads the championships with 40 points going into day two, followed by N.C. State with 34 points and Florida with 32 points.

More records shattered in second day of NCAA Championships

Date: March 2016

Published: The Daily Texan

Top-ranked Texas swept both relays and four of the six events in exhilarating fashion on the second night of the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta.

Sophomores Brett Ringgold and Joseph Schooling, along with junior Jack Conger and senior John Murray began the night with a Big 12 and school record-breaking finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay, earning Texas’ second consecutive NCAA title in the event.

Freshman Townley Haas earned his first individual NCAA title and the team’s second straight NCAA title in the 500 freestyle with a time fast enough to become the second-fastest swim in school history and the fifth-fastest of all-time.

Junior Will Licon followed with a nail-biting performance in the 200 individual medley. Licon fell as far as fifth place after the backstroke leg, but catapulted his way to first, edging California’s Josh Prenot by a tenth of a second to earn his third individual NCAA title.

The wins, along with Wednesday night’s 800 freestyle win, mark the first time the Longhorns have won the first four events of the NCAA Championship.

Murray placed sixth in the 50 individual freestyle, earning All America honors, while Ringgold took second in the consolation final.

Junior diver Mark Anderson earned his first All-America honors with a in the one meter diver, while senior Cory Bowersox won the consolation final.

The Longhorns finished the night shattering one more NCAA record in the 400 medley relay. The quartet of freshman John Shebat, Licon, Schooling and Conger toppled the record set by Texas at last year’s NCAA Championships. Texas fought neck and neck with California, after the Bears got an early lead with Cal’s Ryan Murphy’s American record-setting backstroke leg, but Shebat swam a personal best, keeping the Longhorns in it.

In the breaststroke leg, Cal earned a two second lead, but Schooling’s performance in the butterfly catapulted the Longhorns ahead. Conger put the finishing touches on the race, with a finish that set NCAA, U.S. Open, NCAA Championship, Big 12 and school records.

Texas leads with 209 points going into the third day of the NCAA Championships, with Florida behind in second with 163 points and California in third with 141 points.

Longhorns dominate championships, earn 12th title

Date: March 2016

Published in: The Daily Texan

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Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Head coach Eddie Reese stood alongside his men’s swimming and diving team in front of the Littlefield Fountain on Sunday night, the tower draped in burnt orange and lit with “1.”

About 24 hours earlier, those same players pushed him and men’s athletics director Mike Perrin into the Georgia Tech pool in celebration of the team’s 12th national championship — tied for the most in NCAA history.

The moment marked a major milestone for Reese. Saturday’s title broke a tie with former Ohio State coach, Mike Peppe, making Reese the most decorated coach in men’s collegiate swimming and diving.

“I’ve never had a goal to be an Olympic coach or win an NCAA title,” Reese said. “I just want to get people to go faster. It’s always the swimmers that do it.”

The 190.5 point victory over second-place California pushed the Longhorns into a tie with Michigan for most in Division I history.

Reese has been responsible for the rise of the Longhorns’ program since taking over in 1979, leading the team to each of those 12 titles, as well as 11 runner-up finishes.

Despite the success, he said every championship is different.

“Every year, every person is different,” Reese said. “It takes different workouts and different strength programs to get them to go faster. That’s my whole goal.”

Sophomore Joseph Schooling tied with California’s Ryan Murray and Florida’s Caeleb Dressel for the CSCAA Swimmer of the Meet honor. Reese took the CSCAA National Coach of the Meet award for the second-straight year.

“It’s always nice to contribute to the team,” Schooling said. “Winning never feels bad. I’m happy to have done my part.”

The Longhorns opened the meet in record-setting fashion, winning the first four events for the first time in school history, including earning the NCAA title in the 800-meter freestyle relay for the 13th time, as juniors Jack Conger and Clark Smith, freshman Townley Haas and sophomore Joseph Schooling set NCAA and NCAA Championship meet records.

Haas’ inaugural trip to the NCAA Championships was eventful. His 1:30.46 finish in the 200-meter freestyle became the new NCAA, American and NCAA Championship meet record, as Haas became the first swimmer to clear the 1:31 mark in the event.

Texas capped the second night with a neck-and-neck race to the wall with California in the 400-meter medley relay. Strong splits by Schooling and Conger helped the Longhorns earn their second consecutive title in the event, as well as set new NCAA, U.S. Open and NCAA Championship records.

Licon’s dominant performance in the 200-meter medley made him the only Longhorn to win NCAA titles in both the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys. But he said the 400-meter medley relay win means the most to him.

“That was a group effort, all four of us together rather than individual effort,” Licon said.

Schooling conquered the seven-year-old NCAA record in the 100-meter butterfly previously held by Stanford’s Austin Staab, earning the U.S. Open record as well.

An exciting final day consisted of Licon and Schooling setting individual NCAA records in the 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard butterfly, respectively.

The focus for the swimmers now shifts south towards Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 Summer Olympics. But Reese’s eyes are on setting up his team for a run towards a 13th title.

“I get halfway through the meet, it looks like we’re winning, and I’m figuring out how to make us better for next year,” Reese said. “You [enjoy it] at the moment and then you move on.”