WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., December 5. THE 15th-ranked Texas A&M men's swimming and diving team survived an opening event disqualification and ensuing neck-and-neck battle to defeat Purdue, 129-114, at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center on Friday night.
A false start on A&M's opening 400-yard medley relay turned what would have been a 13-4 Aggie advantage to start the meet into a 13-4 deficit. A&M spent most of the meet playing catch up against a lively Purdue team that was coming off an invitational win over No. 16 Northwestern and No. 22 Iowa.
"We started out a little flat and they got that huge point swing right out of the gate," Texas A&M Head Coach Mel Nash said. "We did a good job to come back and fight our way back into it. Halfway through the meet, by the way we had the events figured, we were in big trouble."
The Aggies fought their way to a 114-112 advantage heading into the final event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay. A&M grabbed a 1-2 finish in that race to push the final score to 129-114. Ozzie Gardner, Josh Hill, Scott Mueller and Matt Rose captured first place in the decisive event with a time of 3:02.36.
A key turning point for the Aggies was the 200-yard backstroke. Josh Hill led a 1-3-4 A&M finish in the 10th of 14 events, a finish that put the Aggies in a position to grab first place. Hill turned in a lifetime-best of 1:47.20 to beat out Purdue's Louis Paul, who was ranked one spot ahead of Hill in the national rankings entering the meet.
"Josh really gave us a chance," Nash said. "We felt if he could step up and win the 200 back that we might be able to get the job done."
A&M reaped a huge benefit in the sprint freestyle events as well. Matt Rse, Ross Collins and Dan Blanchard finished 1-2-3 in the 50 freestyle while freshman Ozzie Gardner and Blanchard went 1-2 in the 100 free to score 29 points in those two events for the Aggies.
Sophomore Mark Solomon was the only Aggie swimmer to capture two individual wins on Friday night. Solomon took first in both distance events, the 500 and 1,000-yard freestyles, to score 18 all-important points for A&M.
The Aggies also benefited from a first place finish in the 200 individual medley and a runner-up effort in the 500 freestyle from senior Scott Mueller.
Divers Christian Picard and Adam Morgan rebounded from fifth and seventh place finishes on the one-meter springboard early in the meet to take second and third on the three-meter.
The Aggies will have little time to rest before taking on No. 25 Indiana in Bloomington at 11:30 a.m. CDT on Saturday morning.