NCAA Swimming Flashback: Texas Goes Six-Up in 100 Butterfly During 2015 Championship Rout

Joseph Schooling NCAA champion
Joseph Schooling led a field full of Longhorn in the 100 butterfly at the 2015 NCAA Championships -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA Swimming Flashback: Texas Goes Six-Up in 100 Butterfly During 2015 Championship Rout

At the 2015 Men’s NCAA Championships, the Texas domination was guaranteed from the very beginning. This was the last season before the 800 freestyle relay was shifted to Wednesday night, so the first finals session of the meet opened with a Texas win in the 200 free relay before Clark Smith, then a little-known sophomore, pulled off a victory in the 500 free. The night ended with Texas pulling off a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the 400 medley relay, as the Longhorns were more than two seconds behind Cal at the halfway point before blasting home for a victory.

Then, the following morning, the men’s 100 butterfly was the second event in prelims, and afterward, everyone inside the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Iowa City did a double-take when the scoreboard scrolled through the top eight finishers.

Six of those swimmers were Texas Longhorns. Specifically, Texas finished first, second, third, fourth, seventh and eighth. Three-quarters of the championship final would consist of swimmers from one team. This was the first time in history any team, men’s or women’s, had ever put six swimmers into one NCAA final.

jack-conger-texas-

Jack Conger placed second in the 100 fly at the 2015 NCAA Championships — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

At the front of that pack was a duo known simply by their first names: Jack and Joe. Jack Conger was a Texas sophomore originally from Rockville, Md., who would go on to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team a year later and claim a gold medal as an 800 free relay prelims swimmer. Joseph Schooling was a freshman from Singapore who had come to Texas by way of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., and Schooling was just 16 months away from taking down Michael Phelps to win Olympic gold in the 100-meter butterfly. Those two swimmers had keyed the medley relay comeback the day prior, with Conger posting the quickest butterfly split in the field at 43.95 and Schooling the second-fastest freestyle split at 40.96.

Joining that duo in the final were senior Tripp Cooper, sophomore Will Glass and juniors John Murray and Matt Ellis. Plenty of swimmers add time from their season-best performances during the pressure-packed NCAA championships, but all four swam season-best marks to sneak into the final, with Ellis getting in by just four hundredths. (In the same race, the third-seeded swimmer actually added a second and ended up 14th in prelims. That swimmer was Florida freshman Caeleb Dressel.)

In the final, North Carolina’s Sam Lewis and Ohio State’s Matt McHugh had every reason to feel out of place as the six Longhorns got up on the blocks. As expected, the race was in middle of the pool with Schooling in lane four and Conger in five. Conger was out first in 20.82, and Cooper was actually in second place at that point, less than a tenth behind. Coming down the stretch, Conger looked to be in position to claim his first individual NCAA title, but Schooling would not give up.

At the finish, Schooling got to the wall first in 44.51, four hundredths ahead of Conger in 44.55. Those two swimmers became the second and third-fastest performers in history. But despite the impressive performance and the Texas 1-2, Conger was far from pleased to finish behind Schooling. They were teammates, but they were exceptionally competitive with each other, and over the next two seasons, Conger would actually go on to finish just behind Schooling in four more individual NCAA finals before he finally captured his lone individual NCAA crown in the 200 fly as a senior (after Schooling finished a shocking 37th in prelims).

Texas fans, meanwhile, had nothing to complain about. Behind the superstar duo at the front of the pack, Cooper placed third, Glass fourth, Ellis sixth and Murray eighth. That marked the first time a team had ever finished 1-2-3-4 in an event at the NCAA Championships, and no team has even finished 1-2-3 in one event in either the women’s or men’s NCAA Championships since then, let alone 1-2-3-4. Texas ended up collecting 92 points in the 100 fly, while the next-highest point total for one team was 14.

The Longhorns ended up winning the national title that year by 129 points over Cal, just one year after the Golden Bears came from behind on the final day to top Texas, in a meet held at Texas’ home pool. In this 2015 championship, the first of four consecutive national wins for the Longhorns, there was no shortage of star power. In fact, the breakout swimmer of that meet was Texas sophomore Will Licon, who upset Chase Kalisz for the national title in the 400 IM and then edged out Kevin Cordes for the crown in the 200 breaststroke.

But without a doubt, the most unforgettable moment of that three-day meet in Iowa was when the A-finalists for the 100 fly flashed up on the scoreboard and Texas had secured a chunk of swimming history, a dominance never seen before and not seen again since.