By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, March 27. THE first night of competition at the Men’s NCAA Division I National Championships is in the books, and what an interesting day of racing it turned out to be. Here are a few thoughts on the first day of racing in Austin.
Disqualifications Dampen Day One
Unfortunately, the biggest story of the meet so far may be the rash of relay disqualifications thus far, in both prelims and finals. It’s not unusual to see a few relays DQ at meets like this, where the stakes are so high and a few hundredths of a second can be the difference between winning and not making finals. However, this meet has to rank towards the top in terms of the number of relays DQed in one day. Three teams were called for false starts in prelims of the 200 free relay, then four more schools were disqualified in finals in the same event. In the 400 medley relay, a whopping six relays were disqualified this morning for early takeoffs, and another one in finals, though not for a false start.
In all, 14 relays were disqualified today, which means a lot of schools, both major contenders and other schools hoping to creep up in the team standings, will be missing out on a significant number of points. Hopefully, these swimmers have learned their lesson today and will be executing safer starts the rest of the meet. After all, it’s better to add a couple of tenths from a slower start than to be disqualified and miss out on any chance of scoring points.
Who will lead the final team standings?
After only six events, three schools have led the team standings twice – Cal, after the 200 free relay and 50 free; Florida, after the 500 free and 200 IM; and Texas, after 1-meter diving and the 400 medley relay. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting race between those three, and don’t count out defending champion Michigan, Arizona or Florida.
Cal had a solid day today, sweeping the relays with a near-American record in the 200 free relay, and getting four swimmers back in finals in the 200 IM and three in the 50 free. They’ll need another strong day tomorrow to stay in the race, as they aren’t as strong in tomorrow’s event lineup. Texas, on the other hand, definitely made a statement today, getting numerous guys back in finals, including two divers in the top five of the 1-meter final, which pushed them into the team lead. Michigan has a bit of ground to make up tomorrow as they currently sit in fourth, 37 points behind Texas. The Wolverines have a strong lineup in tomorrow’s 400 IM, 200 free and 100 breast and could definitely make a move. Florida could be the dark-horse in the team race, as they made big noise in the 200 IM with Marcin Cieslak’s near-NCAA record, Dan Wallace’s second place swim in the 500 and a second place finish in the 400 medley relay. With the team standings changing seemingly after every event, this meet might come down to the last event.
Near Misses On Two Records
A couple of swimmers and relay teams came oh-so-close to NCAA and American records tonight. Cal’s Tyler Messerschmidt, Ryan Murphy, Tony Cox and Seth Stubblefield came as close as possible to the American record in the 200 free relay, missing it by the slimmest of margins – .01 – with a 1:15.27. Murphy, Cox and Stubblefield all swam 18-second splits, and Cox is the only senior on the relay, so they’ll likely have another shot at it next year. Incoming freshmen Kyle Gornay or Joe Schuette may find themselves on the relay next year as top incoming sprinters.
In the 200 IM, Florida’s Marcin Cieslak just missed the NCAA record of 1:40.49, set by fellow Florida Gator Bradley Alley in 2009, with a 1:40.58. In a race that seemed like it would be a lot closer, Cieslak slammed the door early by building a second lead at the halfway point, and never let up. At least two swimmers will have another chance at the NCAA record next year in second place finisher Chase Kalisz of Georgia (1:41.19) and third place finisher David Nolan of Stanford (1:41.38).