NCAA Championship

Sophomore Jack Conger won the 400-medley relay alongside senior Kip Darmody, freshman Joseph Schooling and sophomore Will Licon at the NCAA Championships on Thursday.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Going to the NCAA Championship is nothing new for the Texas men’s swimming and diving team. Under 37-year head coach Eddie Reese, Texas has earned 28 top-three finishes and 10 NCAA team titles. The Longhorns also have more NCAA Championships and NCAA top-two finishes than any other men’s swimming and diving program in the country.

So far, the news out of this year’s NCAA Championships is no different. Many veterans to the Championships, this year held at the University of Iowa, are returning for their fourth and final national competition and are setting some impressive precedents.

The vets, along with their younger teammates, nearly accomplished a feat that had never been done. Texas was one event shy from opening the NCAA Championships with three consecutive event wins.

In the first finals event of the night, juniors Matt Ellis and John Murray, senior Kip Darmody and sophomore Jack Conger initially took second in the 200-freestyle relay. But after a disqualification of N.C. State, the Longhorns secured a first place finish in the 200-freestyle relay, marking Texas’ first NCAA title in the event since 1996.

In the second finals event, the 500-freestyle, sophomore Clark Smith took first, earning 20 points for his team, and becoming Texas’ first national champion in the event.

Although sophomore Will Licon broke his streak by taking second to Stanford’s David Nolan in the 200 IM, he still achieved a new record. Licon lowered his school record time in the event and more than held his own against Nolan, the senior American record holder in the 200 IM.

In the first and only diving finals event of the night, junior Cory Bowersox secured a sixth place finish on the one-meter springboard, giving him his third consecutive All-American finish in the event.

Although Texas didn’t make school history by opening the Championships with victories in the first three events, the Longhorns more than made up for it by making NCAA history.

The last time Texas won the 400-medley relay, it was with four future Olympic gold medalists. Last night, the Longhorns won with Darmody, freshman Joseph Schooling, Conger and Licon to set an NCAA record with a time of 3:01.23.

At the end of Thursday night’s sold-out NCAA Championship finals, Texas stood tall in first place with 171 points. The Longhorns will look to hold their standing until the end of the NCAA Championship on Saturday night.

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas men’s swimming and diving team opens up its season Thursday against North Carolina. The Longhorns return to the pool after a relatively successful 2012-13 season where they captured the Big 12 conference title and placed fifth at the NCAA Championships. 

The Longhorn’s fifth place finish gave head coach Eddie Reese his 33rd championship finish at Texas. Entering his 36th season, Reese has guided the Longhorns to top-three finishes in 27 of 35 NCAA championship meets. 

Assistant coach Kris Kubik returns for his 31st season and diving coach Matt Scoggin, a former Longhorn diver, returns for his 19th season on Reese’s coaching staff. In addition to their team success, the Longhorns individually accounted for five All-America finishes and registered an additional All-America relay showing last season. 

Despite their success, the Longhorns are primed to surpass last year’s achievements. To do this, they must rely on consistent performances from veterans such as junior swimmer Clay Youngquist. 

Youngquist, a four time All-American, claimed two NCAA Championships in the 400 freestyle relay and the 800 freestyle relay during his freshman campaign. 

“Our goal is definitely to win an NCAA Championship,” Youngquist said. “It’s always a special thing to do, but this year, with it being in our home pool, it would be special for us and the University of Texas.”

To secure the team’s 11th NCAA team title, its first since 2010, it will require an effort from a talented freshmen class, headlined by swimmer Jack Conger and diver Michael Hixon, both of whom secured wins for their respective teams during the Orange-White scrimmage earlier this month. Youngquist and the other team leaders have preached the importance of technique in practice in preparation for Thursday’s meet.

“I understand what it takes to get them to that level and win a championship,” Youngquist said. “My mom was my coach growing up so I understand how to be a leader in and out of the pool.”

Youngquist believes the biggest obstacle the freshmen will have to overcome in their first meet will be nerves.

The Longhorn coaches are not expecting blazing swim times during the opening matchup but understand the hard work the team is putting in will keep the team fresh moving forward.

Senior Dax Hill swims the breaststoke leg of the 200 IM event at the Big 12 Championships. Hill will be swimming in his third and final NCAA championships as the Longhorns, as the top-ranked team, look for their 11th national title this weekend in Indiana.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

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.

Just as high hopes are set for Lewis’ first national championship berth, high expectations are set for seniors Michael McBroom, Dax Hill and Austin Surhoff.

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
individual medleys.

“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.

This weekend the Longhorns launch their 2012-2013 season, charting a route toward the ultimate destination of an NCAA Championship.

The annual Southwest Collegiate Plunge will open the regular season for Texas, which was the Big 12 Champion and NCAA runner-up in 2011-12.

The two-day meet will feature contests in 17 events between Texas, Texas A&M, SMU and Incarnate Word. Twenty-nine letterwinners from last season’s nationally competitive team will represent the Longhorns at the event.

Of those returning members, three are seniors who have earned individual NCAA titles for UT. Dax Hill took the 200 freestyle at the NCAA championship last season; Austin Surhoff claimed the 200 individual medley for Texas as a freshman; Michael McBroom won the 1,650 freestyle as a junior after he transferred to UT from Minnesota.

“[McBroom] is an incredibly hard worker,” assistant coach Kris Kubik said. “It’s easy to say that about a lot of people, but for Michael if we have to do anything [in practice], we have to slow him down.”

Fans can also look for a strong showing during relay events, as Texas fielded competitive relay teams at last year’s NCAA Championship. In 2012 Surhoff and Hill teamed with returning sophomore Clay Youngquist and former Longhorn Jimmy Feigen to take first in the 400 freestyle relay.

Coach Carol Capitani remembers losing to Texas when she swam at Cal.  Now, she is coaching the Longhorns in hopes that they will defeat her alma mater. 

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

She saw the Longhorn women’s swimming and diving team win its fifth NCAA championship in a row in 1988 in front of its home crowd.

Then again in 1990. Texas’ sixth championship, and obtained at home.

But Carol Capitani was a swimmer at Cal-Berkley then, and Texas was the team to beat.

“I remember Texas winning,” Capitani said as she looked around the pool she competed in many times. “And they were dominant at the time, and we looked up to them. I mean, you always look up to the best team.”

But now Cal-Berkley is the team to beat, having won three of the last four NCAA championships, and Capitani is on the deck, this time in burnt orange as the new women’s swimming and diving coach.

“When I was approached about this job, it was special because it’s one of the places I have fond memories of competing,” Capitani said. “And at that time in my life, Texas was the team to beat. Now it’s just ironic that Cal is the team to beat.”

Capitani took over for Kim Brackin on April 20, following a ninth-place finish at the NCAA championships. Texas, once the swimming powerhouse that won seven of the first 10 national championships, has not won since Capitani’s senior season at Cal.

“Texas certainly has a good history and many championships,” Capitani said. “I want to make people proud, I want to make Longhorn nation proud and I’m doing my best to make that happen. Hopefully, I can bring wisdom and experience.”

The experience she is talking about is not just from her eight All-American years at Cal but from her days as an assistant at Villanova, her two years as an assistant for the Singapore national women’s swimming team and her 14 seasons as an associate coach at Georgia, helping them to four national championships (1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005) and seven runner-ups.

Through her experience, Capitani also knows that it takes time to win. It’s not an immediate thing.

“Sometimes it looks like we have a long way to go,” Capitani said. “But we are laying the foundations. We have to lay it brick by brick and start somewhere.”

What will it take to get back to that championship level?

“We have to have two or three great recruiting years,” Capitani said. “It’s going to take work, great kids and more work. We have to establish a great culture, similar to that of the men’s team. It’s hard being number one; otherwise everyone would be.”

But at the same time, Capitani said she realized that she still has a very competitive squad, one that she feels can win the Big 12, where they finished second last year to Texas A&M (who has moved on to the SEC).

Printed on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 as: Capitani changes allegiance 

Women's Track & Field

More than 300 schools across the country traveled to the Potato State to compete at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Nampa, Idaho last week.

Out of hundreds of athletes, seven Longhorn women were on a mission to make a big impression, and they did, with the sophomores leading the way.

In the 200-meter dash, Christy Udoh fell short of her 23.46 season-best performance from the conference meet; her time held her to twelfth place and denied her a spot in the finals.

It was a different story for sophomore Allison Peter who earned her way to Nationals with a personal record of 23.11 at the Big 12 Championships. In the finals, she excelled to 22.95 but it was not enough to hold back LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan, who held Peter to second place.

In her first appearance at an NCAA Championship, sophomore Sara Sutherland made school history in the 5-kilometer, taking fifth in the event. With a 15:53.73 run, Sutherland shaved just over six seconds off her personal best and beat the 22-year standing UT record by more than three seconds.

Yet another sophomore had a top-5 performance. A 1.81-meter mark landed Shanay Briscoe in fourth place in the High Jump.

Briana Nelson and Stacey-Ann Smith, who finished tenth and sixteenth, respectively, were unable to push past the prelims in the 400-meter dash.

Nevertheless, the trio of top-8 finishing Texas sophomores racked up 17 points, propelling Texas to the top of the pack at the end of day one.

With only one race left in the meet, the Longhorns went into day two knowing that they would be surpassed in the ranks. Ultimately, they would finish fourth with a total of 25 points.

However, Saturday’s sole event for UT was perhaps the most critical race not only of the meet, but of the season as well. It was the 4x400-meter relay, the last race of the 2012 Championships. And it was Texas’ last stand.

Going into Nationals, the Longhorns were ranked fourth behind Kansas, Texas A&M and LSU, respectively.

With the memory of being beat out of a Big 12 title by the Aggies in College Station still fresh in their minds, the Longhorns were determined not to fall again to the soon-to-be SEC school.

Trailing LSU by less than one second, Texas clenched second with a time of 3:32.36, breaking its season-best from the conference championship and besting A&M before its departure from the Big 12 conference.

Women's Track

The Texas women’s track and field squad had a successful NCAA Championship qualification week as it advanced a best-in-the-nation 16 entries in 11 events to the championship meet beginning next Wednesday.

Head coach Beverly Kearney said Texas’ huge success was due to her team’s depth.

“The one thing that we said we had to do was just to get to the next level,” she said. “We finally have enough volume to where we can sustain a few errors that might happen at a meet.”

Because of some last-minute heroics, most of Texas’ qualifiers earned their spots on the final day of the three-day qualifying meet. Nine athletes and two relays, both the 4x100 meter and 4x400 meter teams, qualified.

The 400-meter relay team of senior Chantel Malone, freshman Allison Peter, freshman Christy Udoh and sophomore Chalonda Goodman ran a 44.00 for the second-fastest time of the day. They will be the first Texas 4x100 meter relay to run at the national meet since 2007.

The 2011 national meet will be held June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Longhorns finished 20th on Monday in their first NCAA Championship meet since 2003. Junior Mia Behm led the team, finishing 35th and earning all-American status.

“There were 31 teams and another 50-plus individuals,” said head coach Steve Sisson. “Every one of the people there belong on the starting line.”

The women were coming off a strong win at the South Central Region meet in Waco on Nov. 13. The NCAA Championship meet took place in Terre Haute, Ind., where the women raced for ISU pre-nationals on Oct. 16.

The preparation and overall fitness helped prime the team for the competitive nature of the NCAA Championship meet. Still, not all of the team was able to fully perform at the competitive stage.

“We got ourselves fit enough that even when we have a disappointing day, we are still competitive,” Sisson said. “In the middle of the race, you have to keep your head about you and pick people off. Megan and Mia were able to do so but the rest of the girls had difficulty moving up the field.”

The warm conditions in Terre Haute worked in the team’s favor, but the windy weather and high density of competitors in the race slowed down the runners.

Overall, Sisson was happy with his team’s effort and excited for Behm’s success.

“We are real proud to be a top-20 team in the country, and we are extremely proud of Mia being an all-American,” he said.

The NCAA Championship marks the end of a season-long goal to prove the Longhorns’ talent and worth.

“We are more of a track team than a cross country team, but I am happy with what we accomplished,” Sisson said. “We took the first step in being on the national stage.”

Much of the team’s success in the 2010 season can be credited to Sisson’s solid coaching, leading to a talented young team with determination that runs deep.

“For me, I think the biggest thing is we made it to the national championships and got a feel for it with a very young team,” Sisson said. “The key now is to take this and turn it into something better.”