To earn an NCAA qualifying time, you obviously have to be fast. Usually, that speed comes from experience. The majority of swimmers at the NCAA championship meet are either junior or seniors. But every once in a while a freshman with enough raw talent comes around who give the veterans a run for their money.
Freshman Sam Lewis has emerged in the pool as a force to be reckoned with, especially in distance events. Thanks to a strong first season, people are starting to take note of Lewis’ potential.
“There were a bunch of no-names coming in to the Big 12 championship,” senior Dax Hill said. “And now everybody knows who Sam Lewis is.”
After receiving high praise from distinguished head coach Eddie Reese at the Big 12 championship, Lewis is looking to earn more distinction at the NCAA championships.
“He did a great job,” Reese said of Lewis’s 500-yard freestyle performance, which earned him an NCAA qualification. “It’s tough to be out there with guys that have more experience who went out like they went out.”
It’s only going to get tougher for Lewis as he faces more intense competition in not only the 500, but also the 1,650 and 200 national freestyle events. But Reese doesn’t appear to have any concerns with Lewis’s coming performance at nationals.
“He’s gonna make me famous,” Reese said.
With the recognition earned from winning the Big 12 Championship’s Newcomer of the Meet, all eyes will be on Lewis for his first highly anticipated NCAA championship appearance.
Unlike Lewis, Hill did not qualify until his sophomore year. One year later, he secured the NCAA title in the 200 freestyle, becoming the first African-American at Texas to win a men’s NCAA individual swimming title. Hill is favored again this year for the event and is likely to place among the top in the 100 freestyle as well.
McBroom has qualified for NCAA Championships all four years of his collegiate career, three of which were completed as a Longhorn. McBroom transferred to Texas his sophomore season and, in the same season, set the school record and won the NCAA title in the 1,650 freestyle.
“I’m excited for NCAA, I’m looking forward to it,” McBroom said. “Hopefully I’ve still got more time to shave off.”
McBroom has since set the NCAA record in the 1,000 freestyle. He holds the nation’s fastest time in the 1,650 freestyle and is clearly favored for the event.
As a freshman, Surhoff was the Longhorn’s top individual point scorer and helped lead the Longhorns to win their 10th NCAA team title. This season, Surhoff earned NCAA qualifying marks in the 200, which he has previously won, and 400
“There’s gonna be about three people that are the ones to beat at nationals and he’s gonna be one of those three,” Reese said of Surhoff.
The seven swimmers set to join Hill, Surhoff, McBroom and Lewis are juniors Charlie Moore, Patrick Murphy and Caleb Weir; sophomores Tripp Cooper, Kip Darmody, Jake Ritter and Clay Youngquist. Divers redshirt sophomore Will Chandler and freshman Cory Bowersox will attend in the attempt to earn titles as well.
“We all are learning from each other and I think that’s the biggest thing that’s different from last year,” Hill commented. “Everybody knows they have more to give.”
No. 1 Texas has significant potential to take its 11th national title in Indianapolis. Texas has finished no worse than second at the last five NCAA Championship meets and looks to continue the tradition starting Thursday.