Prelims: Day One at Men's NCAAs
MINNEAPOLIS – Senior Matt McLean and the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relay teams all earned spots in the finals tonight as the 2011 Men’s NCAA Championships began Thursday at the University Aquatic Center on the Minnesota campus. Preliminaries were held in the 200 freestyle relay, 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 400 medley relay and 1-meter diving.
“I’m not sure we’ve ever had a better first morning than we just had,” Virginia head coach Mark Bernardino said. “I am hopeful we can sustain this momentum for the duration of the meet. We made a positive statement about where we are and what are intentions were coming into this meet. It’s only one out of six sessions, but it was a good one.”
The 200 freestyle relay started the day breaking the Atlantic Coast Conference record. The team of Scot Robison, Peter Geissinger, Tom Barrett and David Karasek touched in 1:17.70 to finish eighth in the morning session and earn a spot in the final. It is the second straight year the relay squad will swim in the final after appearing for the first time there in 2010 and placing eighth.
The previous ACC record of 1:17.84 was set by Georgia Tech in 2009, while the previous Virginia school record of 1:18.05 was attained by Robison, Geissinger and former Cavaliers Eric Olsen and John Azar a year ago during the preliminaries of the 2010 NCAA Championships.
“It was a short relay for Barrett and Karasek and they were able to hold on those last two legs for us,” Bernardino said. “I am really excited and hope we can come back here tonight and hold our own against some of the greatest swimmers in the country.”
The 400 medley relay team of Matthew Murray, Taylor Grey, Geissinger and Robison then ended the day breaking the conference record. The Cavaliers finished in 3:08.45, good enough for sixth place and another spot in the final. The previous ACC record of 3:08.71 was set in 2009 by Olesen, Ryan Hurley, Lee Robertson and Robison.
It also marks the second consecutive year the 400 medley squad will appear in the finals after placing seventh a year ago.
“Between Scot’s split and Peter’s split, they just roared back,” Bernardino said. “They lifted that relay. Matt Murray was very consistent and I’m proud of him. Taylor had his lifetime best breast split. Every single guy has lived up to the goals we had for them this morning. Peter Geissinger, I will continue to say, is one of the most unheralded swimmers. He was spectacular in both relays.”
McLean posted the fastest time of the morning in the 500 freestyle and is the top seed tonight in the final of the event. He finished in 4:12.26 ahead of Stanford’s Bobby Bollier (4:14.84) and defending champion Conor Dwyer of Florida (4:15.55).
“I’ve never seen him look smoother, more controlled or more relaxed,” Bernardino said. “I know he has a monumental task in front of him with the great Conor Dwyer right there next to him tonight.”
Freshman Jon Daniec will also be back tonight in the 500 freestyle after clocking a time of 4:19.59 to finish 16th. He will compete in the consolation final. Senior Taylor Smith just missed a spot in that race, placing 17th this morning with a mark of 4:19.89.
Sophomore Matt Houser broke the UVa school record in the 200 individual medley in a time of 1:44.51 to finish 11th overall and also earn a spot in the consolation final. He bested former Cavalier Pat Mellors’ previous mark of 1:44.99, set in 2007.
“What a great first swim that was for him,” Bernardino said. “He grew a lot this year. He has been a completely different athlete in the practice pool and in competition. For him to come to this meet and have that kind of breakthrough swim, I am just thrilled for him.”
Robison tied for 30th overall in the 50 freestyle with a mark of 19.80.
“A perfect morning would have been to have one athlete in every race but I’ll trade Scot’s 19.4 leading off the (200 freestyle) relay for his individual swim,” Bernardino said. “He essentially carried that relay on his back with a tremendous leadoff split.”
Finals begin at 7 p.m. CDT time (8 p.m. Eastern) tonight from Minneapolis and will be webcast live and linked on VirginiaSports.com.