The Longhorns have a knack for winning swimming national championships — nine to be exact, with three in the past decade (2000, 2001, 2002).
Under the guidance of eight-time NCAA Coach of the Year Eddie Reese, the No. 2 Longhorns (6-1) traveled to Columbus, Ohio on Monday in an attempt to secure a 10th NCAA championship at Ohio State’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. Competition begins Friday and finals end Sunday evening.
The team has finished in second place at the championships on eight occasions, including last season, with Reese leading Texas to top-three NCAA finishes in 24 of his previous 31 seasons.
On top of that, the Longhorns have accumulated 43 NCAA individual swimming titles, 35 NCAA relay titles and 16 NCAA diving crowns with Reese at the helm.
Texas will look to add to those marks after a promising regular season, the only defeat coming from the then-No. 2 Arizona Wildcats, who currently occupy the top spot.
The Longhorns claimed their 14th consecutive Big 12 championship meet and Reese’s 30th successive conference title at Texas.
Last week’s Zone Diving Championships, an NCAA-qualifying meet for divers, saw 2009 NCAA 1-meter champion and sophomore Drew Livingston and junior Matt Cooper qualify for the national championships.
The two divers will complete a 19-man squad, consisting of Olympians Ricky Berens and David Walters as well as freshman Big 12 champion Austin Surhoff. Texas is sending the largest contingent of swimmers and divers with Arizona, Auburn, California and Ohio State bringing 18 each.
Assistant coach Kris Kubik believes Texas’ progress this season comes on the back of the positive influence the seniors had on their teammates and that the team is fully capable of bringing home a national championship.
“We’ve had phenomenal senior leadership from each of our seniors the entire year, not only in practicing and racing but in giving advice to our younger swimmers,” Kubik said. “So it has been a very pleasant year thus far, and as far as any surprises are concerned, I think ideally the whole team will be a surprise because I think we’re ready to do something very special.”
Other than the experienced duo of Berens and Walters, the Longhorns have several NCAA veterans among them. Senior Hill Taylor is making his fourth straight appearance, and for senior Peter Jameson and juniors Scott Spann and Bryan Collins, it will be their third.
Sophomore Jimmy Feigen, making his second trip to the championships, will be reunited with his nemesis, California’s Nathan Adrian. As a freshman, Feigen came in second to Adrian at the NCAAs in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, the Longhorn’s favored competitions. This time, Feigen is swimming with a year of experience under his belt and with more confidence, qualifying at the conference championships for the 50 freestyle with an NCAA “A Cut” of 19.34 and also winning the 100.
Texas’ first-timers include junior Jim Robertson and freshmen Surhoff, Nick D’Innocenzo and Cole Cragin.
Surhoff will the be one to watch this week after he was named Big 12 Conference Championship Newcomer of the Meet, winning the 200 backstroke, 200 individual medley and placing second in the 400 individual medley.
Robertson is part of a trio of Longhorns competing in the 500 freestyle. He will be led by sophomore Jackson Wilcox and junior Scott Jostes.
Jostes has recently made a name for himself by setting records. In 2009, he was the NCAA champion and record holder in the 800 freestyle relay with a time of 6:10.06. He is also an American record holder in the 200 freestyle and 200 and 800 medley relays.
“Scott had an outstanding year last year and got a taste of the competition at the NCAA level,” Kubik said. “So we fully expect for him to be a big contributing factor for points at the NCAAs this year, not only in his individual events but also on relays.”
He is also swimming in the 200 and 100 freestyle, lining up against teammate Feigen in the latter.
Texas did not have much success in the backstroke competitions at last year’s meet with 2009 All-American Taylor finishing third and sixth in the 100 and 200 events, respectively. The senior will be the lone Longhorn in the 100 backstroke and will also take part in the 100 butterfly alongside sophomore Neil Caskey. This year, Surhoff will be accompanied by Collins and sophomore Hayes Johnson in the 200 backstroke, without the experienced Taylor.
NCAA.com offers live video streaming of each day’s sessions except Sunday’s finals, which will be aired by ESPN360.com.