Top Five Races of Inaugural ACC/Big Ten Swimming Challenge

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Taylor Covington, Swimming World College Intern.

There’s something about dual meets that truly captures the rawest aspect of sports. Swimmers step up to the blocks unfinished and a little unpolished, unshaven and exceedingly untapered. Dual meets are the times when the time on the clock pales in importance to getting one’s hand on the wall first – when there’s one defined “other” in a cap of a contrasting color. Dual meets arguably bring about the most primal aspects of competition; records are sparse and personal bests are few and far between, but a narrow focus on winning is at the forefront, and team tribalism is at its peak.

So, what happens when competitors become teammates, when the hard-instilled college allegiance disintegrates, and the “other” is a mosaic of rival teams? What happens when two Power Five conferences square off?

That’s exactly what college swimming put to the test in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this past weekend. The inaugural meet took place in West Lafayette, Indiana at the Morgan J. Burke Aquatic Center at Purdue University. Two to five men and women from each institution were designated to compete for their conference, where each athlete was entered in up to six events in the meet, including relays and individual events. Here are the top five moments of the weekend:

1. Men’s 400 Medley Relay

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Coming off a mixed conference dinner in the banquet room above the Purdue football field Friday night, the ACC and Big Ten retreated back to their corners. The black-cap clad Big Ten took the first four lanes of the warm-up pool as the ACC entered the natatorium with a boisterous team cheer, leaving the laughs and light conversation in hindsight. A white water warm-up ensued, where meticulous and unfamiliar relay exchanges left the crowd nervous and excited.

The night began with a runaway victory for the Big Ten women in the 400 medley relay, followed by a nail-biting change of events for the men’s relay. Coleman Steward led off with a 45.35 100 back to lead the NCAA. Indiana University’s Ian Finnerty and Vini Lanza both out-split their ACC competitors in the breast and butterfly legs respectively, but the ACC’s Justin Ress anchored his conference relay with a 41.73, edging out the Big Ten by three hundredths of a second, prompting an explosive deck reaction from the ACC.

2. Women’s 400 Yard Individual Medley

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The women’s 400 Individual Medley was another epic battle between the conferences, where the ACC’s Emma Muzzy squared off with the Big Ten’s Bailey Andison. Muzzy took a wide lead for the first 200, out-splitting Muzzy by over a second in the fly leg and over half a second in the backstroke. Big Ten head coach Ray Looze set the tempo for Andison, however, recruiting the Big Ten spectators to join in cheering. Thus, Andison dropped a 1:08.55 breaststroke split and out-split Muzzy by three tenths on the final leg, tallying another win for the Big Ten.

3. Men’s 100 Yard Freestyle

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The week leading up to competition was abuzz with talk of the showdown between the ACC’s Justin Ress and Big Ten senior Zachary Apple in the 100 yard freestyle. Deemed one of the most exciting rivalries of the meet, all eyes focused on lanes four and five after Mallory Comerford’s victory in the women’s heat with a time of 46.96. Ress adjusted his white cap denoting the ACC during the short break, and the cameras focused on the center of the pool.

The competition commenced explosively with uncanny reaction times from both Apple and Ress, and the race proceeded as expected with Apple and Ress leading the field, clocking in a splits of 20.59 and 20.74, respectively. Fans waited with bated breath as the two flipped at the 75, when suddenly an observing ACC teammate implored spectators to turn their attention to lane eight.

Sure enough, ACC senior Jacob Molacek surged ahead of the field with a beautiful finish, out-touching Apple and raising both hands to spectators. The ACC supporters watched in excitement and awe, tallying another in the win column for the ACC.

4. Men’s 500 Yard Freestyle

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

As the men stepped up for the 500 free after commercial break, the natatorium hushed. Two men were seeded to dominate the race, Marcela Acosta from the ACC and Felix Auboeck from the Big Ten, placed side-by-side in lanes four and five, respectively. Seeing as it was the last individual event before a 45 minute break, both teams filtered out of the warm down pool and lined the sides of the competition pool.

Early in the race, however, attention turned to lane two, where ACC sophomore Zach Yeadon split a 48.56 on his first 100, almost a second faster than Auboeck. The pool deck rumbled with speculation that he was setting an unreasonable pace; yet, he continued to post consistent mid-51 splits through the fourth 100 yards. Auboeck and Yeadon were neck and neck at the ringing of the bell, with Auboeck surging ahead at the finish to beat Yeadon by a little over half a second with a time of 4:13.68. The Big Ten tallied more points with Ricardo Vargas Jacobo touching in at third place, edging out Acosta.

5. Women’s 200 Medley Relay

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The second day was dominated by the energy of the women’s 200 medley relay. The ACC entered the meet eager to prevent another initial point-deficit, with the women lining up early behind the blocks directly following the national anthem. After an extended commercial break, the backstrokers took the water, only for the Big Ten’s Beata Nelson to post the fastest time in the country this season with a 24.12 split. With similar momentum, Lilly King followed up with a 25.72 breaststroke leg, surging ahead of the ACC to what seemed like a point of no return. The ACC’s Alyssa Marsh responded, however, with a 22.58 fly leg, out-splitting the Big Ten’s Maggie Mcneill by eight tenths. Mallory Comerford followed with an impressive 21.08 split, but it proved too late. The ACC was still edged out by the Big Ten at the finish with a time of 1:34.96, ultimately setting the tone for the rest of the meet, where the Big Ten proved victorious.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar
    SwimDad

    NCAA Men’s 500 Free is going to be a great race..!!

Author: Taylor Covington

avatar
Taylor Covington is originally from Gaffney, SC and is a swimmer at Boston College. She is a Biology B.S./English double major and is a contributing sports reporter for the school newspaper.

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