GREENSBORO, North Carolina, March 1. IN one of the most entertaining conference championships this season, the Virginia Tech men’s squad held off a some big time final-day firepower by the N.C. State Wolfpack to take home the title. It proved to be a historic night for the Hokies, considering they have never previously won a conference title in the program’s history.
Virginia’s Brad Phillips dominated the final heat of the men’s 1650, taking over the lead from teammate Rodney Fentress and Virginia Tech’s Michal Szuba at the 700 and never looking back from there. Phillips ended up touching in 14:58.00 and winning by more than 20 meters. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s Jake Ores touched second in 15:09.14, but he fell short of runner-up honors as NC State’s Austin Snyder ended up getting second.
Snyder’s time of 15:09.06 from the first of the three heats held up for second, leading to a huge cheer from the raucous Wolfpack fanbase at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. Ores took third, but NC State’s Adam Linker picked up fourth place with his 15:14.02, also from heat one. After being seeded 17th and 20th, respectively, the pair made the Hokies’ quest for a team title much more difficult.
NC State’s Stephen Coetzer set a new ACC record in the prelims of the 200 back, clocking 1:40.53, and he led for the first 175 of the final, but a shaky final leg brought Virginia Tech’s Collin Higgins and Virginia’s Luke Papendick back into the race for the win. Papendick ended up taking the win in 1:40.99, matching his prelim time which had also been under the previous meet record time of 1:41.11.
While the six-time defending champion Virginia Cavaliers earned their second straight win (and second overall) win, Coetzer had to settle for second, touching in 1:41.28. Higgins made up almost a second on Coetzer on the final 50, but he had to settle for third, touching in 1:41.28.
NC State got a huge point swing in the 100 free as Simonas Bilis won the event in 42.26, and teammates Jonathan Boffa (42.60) and David Williams (42.80) took third and fourth, respectively. Florida State’s Paul Murray did his best to break up the Wolfpack stranglehold on the event, going out in 19.91 at the 50, but he faded to second, touching in 42.59. Meanwhile, five Wolfpack swimmers filled out the B-final, taking the top three spots, and in the process earning a 116-point turnaround in their battle with Virginia Tech.
Notre Dame’s Zach Stephens completed a sweep of the breaststrokes as he used a crushing second 100 to win the 200 breast. While Virginia’s Yannick Kaeser led at the 100, he fell victim to Stephens’ back half as he pulled away to win in 1:53.34. That mark broke the 1:54.79 meet record that Gary Marshall set in 2002, and it fell just shy of Rob Holderness’ ACC record of 1:53.13 from 2011. Kaeser, meanwhile, held on for second, touching in 1:54.29, while Virginia Tech’s Harrison Cefalo used a strong final 50 to beat out Duke’s Hunter Knight for third. Cefalo touched in 1:55.54, while Knight came in at 1:55.66.
NC State continued their fantastic meet with as Christian McCurdy won the 200 fly. A day after winning the 400 IM, McCurdy put on a clinic in the second half, pulling away from North Carolina’s Ben Colley, who set a meet record of 1:42.19 in prelims. McCurdy touched in 1:41.72 to break that meet record, while Virginia Tech’s Morgan Latimer touched second in 1:42.58, and Colley ended up third in 1:42.86. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s 48-point advantage following the event was enough to guarantee them a team victory barring a DQ in the 400 free relay.
NC State closed out the meet with a huge conference record time in the 400-yard free relay as Simonas Bilis (42.71), David Williams (42.81), Andreas Schiellerup (42.86) and Jonathan Boffa (41.68) posted a 2:50.06. That swim smashed Virginia’s 2011 time of 2:51.26 set at the conference championships.
It wasn’t enough to overcome Virginia Tech’s lead as the Hokies’ Joe Bonk, Lucas Bureau, Jan Switkowski and Owen Burns turned in a safe third-place time of 2:54.28 to secure Tech’s first conference title ever. Notably, Florida State’s Paul Murray, Jason McCormick, Kevin Rogers and Pavel Sankovich placed second overall with an NCAA A cut of 2:53.27.
The Hokies finished with 1264.5 points for the title, while the Wolfpack took second with 1226 points. North Carolina (995), Virginia (972) and Florida State (957.5) made up the top five with Notre Dame just on the outside with 907.5 points in Tim Welsh’s final conference meet after arriving in Notre Dame in 1985.
Georgia Tech (542), Duke (482), Pittsburgh (412.5), Boston College (205) and Miami (156) comprised the rest of the lower tier of team scoring.