South Carolina’s Minuth, Mahmoud Make Distance Statement at NCAAs

Fynn Minuth. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By Dan D’Addona.

Two of the swimmers who traveled the furthest distances to swim collegiately made the biggest move in the first distance event at the NCAA Division I championships.

The South Carolina duo of Fynn Minuth and Akaram Mahmoud led the preliminary field with top times of 4:09.55 and 4:09.73 on Thursday, holding off Michigan freshman Felix Auboeck (4:09.93).

Minuth is a sophomore from Germany, while Mahmoud is a junior from Egypt.

Making the final wasn’t a surprise for Minuth, who had the third-fastest time (4:11.07) in the country during the season.

“It was just getting mentally and physically ready for the race. Our coach Mark Bernardino had us perfectly prepared for this meet, and having a great group of guys that train with you every day helps a lot,” Minuth said. “Having (Akaram) by my side was great.”

But Mahmoud moved up from 15th-fastest at 4:14.34, which wasn’t even an automatic qualifying time, returning to his All-American form from last year.

“It started in the 800 free relay when we broke the school record,” Mahmoud said. “We broke it my almost 3 ½ seconds, so that gave us huge momentum toward today. Then this morning, that is the first time we both broke 4:10, and I think that put us eighth and ninth all time. That is a huge thing.”

Traveling across continents to join South Carolina has paid dividends for the duo, as well as junior Tom Peribonio, who qualified for the consolation final with the 16th seed (4:14.09).

“No. 1 priority was definitely Mark Bernardino,” Minuth said. “He is a great coach. I heard a lot about him before I even thought about South Carolina. And I knew Arakam was here already. They were huge factors of why I chose South Carolina. It is a very positive environment.”

Mahmoud is no stranger to the big stage, swimming for Egypt in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 400-meter freestyle and 1,500 freestyle.

“I was a little disappointed with my performance at Rio. I was hoping to make the final, but finished 11th in the mile,” he said. “It gave me huge momentum going into this season. I wanted to do something even more special. We worked really hard this last month and we put in everything we had. Going under 4:10 is a huge accomplishment for me. One of my goals was to go 4:10 or better. Mark keeps pushing.”

He is hoping to build off of the meet his Egyptian Olympic teammate Farida Osman had last week. The Cal senior capped her career with a national title in the 100 butterfly.

“Of course (that gets me excited),” Mahmoud said. “That is my goal hopefully this year, in the mile. I am excited.”

The South Carolina duo will have its hands full in the final with 2015 champion Clark Smith of Texas (4:10.53) and last year’s champion Townley Haas (4:11.33) looming. Plus Indiana’s Marwan El Kamash (4:11.84), Stanford’s Grant Shoults (4:12.14) and NC State’s Anton Ipsen (4:12.18).

Whatever the outcome, South Carolina’s distance crew is making a statement in Indianapolis and with no seniors in the trio of 500 freestyle scorers, the future looks even brighter.

“We have at least one more year together. We will train the same way — it has been paying off for all of us so far — and the meet just started,” Minuth said. “We will see where it goes.”

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5 years ago

Bernardino is the MAN!