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By David Rieder
AUSTIN, Texas, March 28. PRIOR to the second evening of finals at the men’s Division I NCAA Championships in Austin, most looked at the race for the title as between four high-profile well-coached programs. But after six individual finals, the 800 free relay, and three-meter diving, one team appears to have fallen out of contention. The Michigan Wolverines ended up dropping places consistently in Friday’s finals, culminating with a shocking fourth place-finish in the 800 free relay.
The Wolverine squad of Anders Nielsen, Michael Wynalda, Justin Glanda, and Connor Jaeger clocked 6:16.37, nowhere close to their U.S. Open record-time of 6:09.85 that the same foursome clocked at last month’s Big-10 Championships. That would have won the relay in Austin by more than three seconds as USC won in 6:13.09. Michigan fell off in the 400 IM, when Kyle Whitaker fell from the second seed in prelims to sixth in the finals, while Dylan Bosch dropped from fourth to seventh.
Here are the updated scoring projections for men’s NCAAs: pic.twitter.com/9mwJLnmgHy
— USA Swimming Stats (@USASwimStats) March 29, 2014
In the 200 free, top-seeded Wynalda ended up third, while Jaeger finished dead last in the consolation final. Bruno Ortiz fell to seventh in the 100 breast, though Richard Funk helped out the cause with his third place finish in that event. Michigan currently sits fifth with 116 points, having scored 18 points fewer than her projection from prelims and a total loss of 42 points from the psych sheet projections.
Meanwhile, Michigan could be in trouble for even fourth place as Georgia scored 35 more points than the psych sheet had projected, and they moved ten points ahead of the Wolverines after Friday’s finals. Chase Kalisz led the way with his dramatic record-breaking performance in the 400 IM where he took down Tyler Clary’s previous mark by a shocking second and a half. Tynan Stewart, Doug Reynolds, and Matias Koski made jumps into championship finals in the prelims.
Nic Fink came in second behind a record-breaking swim from Kevin Cordes in the 100 breast. Meanwhile, Cordes’ 50.04 couldn’t stop the Arizona free fall, as they ended up with 64 points less than the psych sheet projections and 21 less than their seedings from the morning’s action. Now, the Wildcats will have to fend off both Auburn and USC to have a chance at even earning sixth.
California and Florida made the best of their seedings coming out of prelims, as the two teams improved by 13 and 14 points, respectively. Cal’s big bump came in the 200 medley relay, where they took the title from lane eight, while Ryan Murphy’s impressive win in the 100 back did not hurt, even though he entered the final as the top seed. The Gators, meanwhile, made the best of finishing ninth and tenth in the 400 IM, as Sebastian Rousseau and Matt Elliott maintained their seeds, while Connor Signorin picked up third in the heat. One event later, Marcin Cieslak helped the cause with his come-from-behind triumph in the 100 fly.
Texas actually scored 6.5 fewer points than projected after prelims, but their initial 77 point addition from their psych sheet projections led to an evening session that will keep them in the thick of the title race on day three with the Golden Bears and the Gators. Kip Darmody earned MVP honors for the Longhorns with his 20.88 backstroke split in the 200 medley relay, which fell to second after leading the way in prelims, and he also finished third in the 100 back, clocking 45.03 while swimming in lane seven.
Jack Conger fell from third to sixth in the 100 fly, but having teammates Tripp Cooper (fifth) and Will Glass (seventh) in the final still earned Texas 39 points. Finally, diving played a huge role in the Longhorns’ surge once again, as freshman Michael Hixon earned his second win of the meet, this time on the three-meter springboard. Even though he was the only scorer for Texas this time around, the twenty big points he scored gave Texas the lead headed into the last day of competition.
Current projections have Florida winning the meet over call by a 390.5 to 384 margin over California. If swimming seeds hold on Saturday, Texas will be in third with 357.5 — a total that does not include diving, where neither Florida nor Cal have any entries. Meanwhile, Cal and Texas have been out-swimming their seedings and seed times by large margins, while Florida has stayed around the same. One more day remains to decide the title, and how each of the three teams perform in prelims on Saturday morning could decide the team title.