Day 1 NCAA Finals Notebook: Shockers, Surprises and Stunners in Austin

California 200 FR

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Commentary by Jeff Commings

AUSTIN, Texas, March 27. AS Liz Lemon used to say: “What the what??!!!??”

That statement can refer to multiple things from the first day of the NCAA Men’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships. It can be directed at the 14 relay disqualifications, the shocking no-shows in the championship finals or the fact that the Texas Longhorns are leading the team race by one point.

”Results are unofficial”
I will likely go to sleep tonight hearing Sam Kendricks’ voice in my head on endless repeat. Kendricks, possibly the best meet announcer in the business, kept saying results after just about each relay heat were “unofficial” until judges could verify that the electronic judging was indeed correct. This hurt a lot of teams not only looking to score points, but place in the top five at the end of the meet. The DQ that put a knot in my stomach was Arizona’s in the 400 medley relay. Kevin Cordes left the blocks five hundredths of a second early, leaving us to only wonder what we could have seen from the Wildcats. Not only were they tapped to win the relay, but I and many others believed they could dip under three minutes. With Mitchell Friedemann, Cordes and Giles Smith all seniors this year, it might be many years before a talented foursome of that caliber steps up to swim that race again.

Why so many DQs? In an interview with the media, Florida coach Gregg Troy suggested that the meet is “real fast, and not much margin for error. Everyone’s cutting it real slim and pressing it as much as they can. It’s pretty easy to get a little nervous and make a mistake.”

The average takeover time on the 400 medley relay tonight was .27 and about .15 on the 200 free relay. So, everyone was a little back on their heels tonight.

Rousseau, Chierighini out of championship final?
Sebastian Rousseau and Marcelo Chierighini were each favored to win or be in the top three of their individual events on the first day. Rousseau was supposed to be in the hunt in the 200 IM, while Chierighini was all but assured of the win in the 50 free. Neither showed up in prelims today, and it hurt Florida badly when Rousseau finished 21st. As for Chierighini, he didn’t break 19 seconds at all today, with a best of 19.21 in the 50 free prelims. Rousseau has the opportunity to recoup his losses tomorrow in the 400 IM, while Chierighini’s next big chance will come in the 100 free on Saturday.

Texas fight to the top
The University of Texas Longhorns are always in the top five. Eddie Reese’s squads have placed in the top five every year since 1981, with the exception of 2005 (seventh place). As a former Longhorn, I am proud to be part of that history, but was wary of that streak continuing this year. On paper, Texas didn’t look like they had a chance to score points in many events. If they were lucky, they would get into a few relay finals.

After the first day, the Longhorns are in the lead by one point. Chalk that up to second place in the 200 free relay and third in the 400 medley relay. Give a big cheer to the divers, led by champion Michael Hixon. Credit the home pool advantage. Credit Eddie Reese for having the confidence to not give his swimmers a big taper at any point in the season.

“We’re kind of a workhorse,” Reese said. “We may not win anything but diving, which we’ve already won. We just keep struggling along. The overall effort has been pretty good.”

Overheard: “If Sam Kendricks says ‘results are unofficial’ one more time, I’m going to take his microphone and beat him senseless with it.”