Texas Seniors Win ‘The Sweetest One’ — Their Fourth NCAA Title

Jonathan Roberts, Brett Ringgold and Joseph Schooling. Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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By Dan D’Addona.

Texas winning the NCAA championship isn’t anything different, after all the Longhorns have won four in a row.

Coming from behind to do it on a final night that had three teams still in contention until the final race, that was different, after three straight national title blowouts — and thrilling.

“It means the world to me,” Texas senior Jonathan Roberts said. “It is definitely the sweetest one, just because it is my senior year and it was the closest one, most competitive. I was fortunate enough to be a leader on this team. It has just been an honor to be with Eddie (Reese) for four years.”

The Longhorns scored 449 points, holding off several contending teams. Cal finished second with 437.5 points and was in the meet until the final relay. Indiana finished third with 422 and was in it until nearly the end. NC State surged to fourth place with 385 after winning the final relay.

It marked four in a row for the Texas seniors but the 14th for Reese.

“I don’t ever talk about winning NCAAs. I just talk about getting better. They are never the same. It always takes different training and methodology to get to this point. Everybody is different every year,” Reese said. “To get them to continue to swim faster, sadly, you have to work them harder. Not for me it’s not sad, but for them.”

And Reese worked the Longhorns perhaps harder than ever before. The Longhorns seemed slow throughout the season, losing their first four dual meets and five out of nine overall.

“We knew that it was going to be a hard one this year,” freshman Austin Katz said. “We knew we had to keep grinding and not let anything go to our heads. We had to get better every session. That is something that we did.”

It didn’t happen right away.

“Thankfully, Matt Scoggin brought his divers to this meet because we didn’t hit on all cylinders until about Friday night, then we started getting better,” Reese said.

On Friday, Roberts started the morning like he was shot out of a cannon. He took a big lead in the 400 IM and surged to the second seed. He ended up finishing seventh — but the message was sent.

“For me, it is just waking up in the morning and getting after it. I try to go as fast as I can and get the team going. One of the biggest strategies for this meet was to try to win the night and win the morning. Getting numbers in the A final and the B final,” Roberts said. “Any stupidity that I can throw in there by taking my 400 IM out in a 1:42, I’ll do that. It will probably scare Eddie on the back end, but it will get the fans going and get our team going. It is just something special for me. I have been able to do that a couple of times, just trying to get us woken up for the morning session.”

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Senior Joseph Schooling followed with a fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly (44.68) before Junior Townley Haas reclaimed the American record in the 200 free, winning in 1:29.50. Jeff Newkirk (ninth) and Sam Pomajevich (11th) also scored in the event, bringing Texas into second place with 220 at that point, closing in on Cal (227.5) and moving ahead of Indiana (217).

John Shebat (44.59) and Katz (44.99) went 2-4 in the 100 back, then Jordan Windle and Grayson Campbell both competed in the A-final in 3-meter diving.

But after all of that, Texas (278) trailed Indiana (295), and after the 1650 free opened up competition Saturday night, the Longhorns were stunningly back down to third place with 306 behind Indiana (325) and Cal (313.5).

Then it was back to Katz (1:37.53), Shebat (1:37.94) and Roberts (1:38.38), who went 1-2-5 in the 200 backstroke to vault the Longhorns back into the lead, where it looked like they might stay.

But Indiana had a huge 200 breast and Cal scored three in the 200 fly and it was the Golden Bears (405.5), who led ahead of Texas (396) and Indiana (380) with just two events remaining.

Platform diving must have been the longest event Reese has ever had to watch. But Windle scored huge points by getting second, and Jacob Cornish scored in the B final, giving the Longhorns 23 points in the event — and the lead heading into the final relay.

Windle scored 90 points on his final dive.

“He needed 81 and I knew he could do it,” Scoggin said.

Still, three teams went into the final relay with a chance.

Indiana needed to finish first or second, have Texas to DQ and have Cal finish sixth or seventh.

Cal needed to win and have Texas get lower than fourth.

In the end, none of the what-ifs mattered.

Brett Ringgold, Haas, Schooling and Tate Jackson finished fourth in 2:47.00, while Cal was third and Indiana was sixth, giving the Longhorns an 11.5-point victory over Cal.

It was the closest finish in men’s NCAA championship since 2002, and for the Texas seniors, the perfect finish to a four-year title reign.

“I will miss meets like this. I tried to just soak it in,” Roberts said. “The journey of our past eight months has been awesome — just kind of trying to leave the mark on what a Texas Longhorn should look like has been one of the biggest honors of my life.”

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Improving

    ” NC State surged to fourth place with 385 after winning the final relay.”

    they were in fourth place the entire night….

Author: Daniel D'Addona

avatar
Dan D'Addona is the lead college swim writer for Swimming World. He has covered swimming at all levels since 2003, including the NCAA championships, USA nationals, Duel in the Pool and Olympic trials. He is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a graduate of Central Michigan University. He currently lives in Holland, Michigan, where he also is the Sports Editor at The Holland Sentinel.

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