By Amy Padilla//Contributor | Tuesday, March 26, 2019
The 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships will start March 27 and continue through March 30 in Austin, Texas. According to the final CSCAA polls, the top five qualifying teams this year include Cal, Indiana, NC State, Texas and Florida.
Although the CSCAA ranks the top teams according to their total seasonal performance, this preview also takes into account last year’s NCAA team results, each group’s scoring potential, and where they are positioned in the psych sheets.
1. Texas Longhorns
Texas is a force to be reckoned with. Texas finished first in last year’s NCAA Championships, beating Cal by 11.5 points. Although the Longhorns are currently in fourth in the CSCAA rankings, Texas qualified 20 swimmers in individual events. That, and their first-place finish last year warrants a higher ranking.
In addition to having the largest group attending this year’s NCAAs, Texas holds numerous top-ten seeds in the freestyle and backstroke events. Senior Tate Jackson holds the top seed in the 100 free and issecond in the 50 free. He also qualified for the 100 fly. Jackson was a 2016, 2017 and 2018 NCAA Championships qualifier as well as a five-time All-American. Jackson’s sprinting abilities will help propel Texas forward against the competition.
Senior Townley Haas, who will race the 100 free and 500 free, will also look to take his fourth-straight title in his signature event, the 200 free. Haas holds American, U.S. Open, NCAA Championship meet and school records in this event. What’s more, he won silver in the 200 free at the 2017 FINA World Championships.
Other Longhorns to watch out for include Drew Kibler, John Shebat, and Sam Pomajevich. If Texas wins, this will be the Longhorn’s fifth-straight title and 15th NCAA victory.
2. California Golden Bears
It will be interesting to see how close Cal will come to Texas in the finals. Cal is ranked first in the polls, but has 16 contenders in this year’s NCAAs, compared to Texas’ 20. The Golden Bears finished second in the NCAAs last year. On the other hand, the buzz this season is that Cal will score the most swimming points and the divers will determine which team will become the champions.
Senior All-American Andrew Seliskar is the top seed and holds the best time in the country in the 200 IM, 200 free, and 200 breaststroke. Seliskar has made three "A" finals at NCAAs three years in a row, and scored the most individual points of any Pac-12 swimmer at the 2018 NCAA Championships with 47.
Senior Mike Thomas qualified for three events, the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 fly. Thomas earned All-American honors in these same races in the 2018 NCAA Championships. All-American juniors Zheng Wen Quah and Pawel Sendyk also each qualified for three events. Zheng will swim the 200 IM, as well as the 100 and 200 fly, and Sendyk will race the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly.
The Golden Bears will head into the NCAAs after their second conference title victory at the Pac-12 Championships over Stanford.
3. Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana has a lot going for it this year. The third-ranked Hoosiers have ten swimmers who qualified for individual berths, with half of them swimming three events each. These elite athletes include Zach Apple, Bruno Blaskovic, Gabriel Fantoni, Ian Finnerty and Vini Lanza. Surprisingly, four out of the ten swimmers scheduled to swim are freshmen. The diving team is also incredibly strong, which could put them further ahead of many other universities in the finals.
Senior sprinter Zach Apple was the Big Ten Champion in five events this season and has qualified for the NCAA Championships four years in a row. He will swim the 50 free, 100 free and 200 free and is one to keep tabs on. Fellow sprinter Blaskovic, a sophomore, earned four All-America honors at the 2018 NCAA Championships and will race the 50 free, 100 free and the 100 fly.
Lanza was Big Ten Swimmer of the Championships for the third-straight year, becoming the first man in league history to accomplish the feat. Lanza is seeded first in the 100 fly and second in the 200 fly and 200 IM. This will be his fourth year to swim at the NCAAs.
Finnerty’s pinnacle event is the 100 breast, for which he is seeded first. The All-America swimmer became the first man in Big Ten history to win for four straight years. Finnerty won the 2018 NCAA Championship in the 100 breaststroke with the fastest time in history.
Furthermore, Indiana is one of only nine schools in the nation to earn double-digit invitees to this year’s NCAA Championships. The Hoosiers also qualified for all five relays.
4. North Carolina State Wolfpack
The third-ranked Wolfpack team has a lot to offer this year at the NCAAs, bringing 11 swimmers to race and qualifying all five of its relays. Although the Wolfpack men have more swimmers qualify than Indiana, the Hoosiers have more swimmers in several events and are seeded higher in most of the races.
However, the NC State men claimed their fifth straight and the program’s 29th overall conference title and the 2019 ACC Championships. In addition, the Wolfpack relays are top-notch, which will make NC State one of the highest scoring teams in this specialty.
Wolfpack swimmers Coleman Stewart, Andreas Vazaios, Noah Hensley, and Eric Knowles, are all geared up to swim three events at the 2019 NCAA Championships. Stewart, a junior, was honored as ACC Meet Co-MVP, marking the third straight season that a swimmer from NC State has been awarded those honors. Stewart is a two-time NCAA Champion in the 100 back and 400 free relay, an eight-time All American, and a five-time ACC Champion. He will race the 100 fly, 100 back, and 200 back.
Vazaios is a three-time NCAA Champion, a nine-time All-American, and a six-time ACC Champion. Vazaios was the 2018 ACC Men’s Swimmer of the Year and the CSCAA Scholar All-American in 2017 and 2018. He will swim the 100 back, 200 IM, and 200 fly.
Hensley was a qualifier in the 2018 NCAAs, and will race the 100 fly, 100 back, and 200 back this year. Knowles, a distance swimmer, will also attend this event for the second year in a row. He is seeded for the 400 IM, 500 free and 1650 free.
5. Florida Gators
The Florida Gators are fifth in the poll. Last year, the Gators also finished fifth at the 2018 NCAAs just behind NC State. The Gators will go head-to-head with the Wolfpack to try to obtain the fourth place spot.
Florida will send 15 swimmers in 14 different events to the NCAAs this year, many of whom are a talented crew of freshmen athletes attending the Championships for the first time. Junior Maxime Rooney, a five-time All-American, will return to the NCAAs for the third year, and will swim the “A” standard in the 100 free, 100 fly, and 200 fly.
Gators Khader Baqlah, Trey Freeman, and Kacper Stokowski will each race three events in the “B” cuts, and distance swimmer Robert Finke will swim the mile in the ‘A’ and two others in the “B” standards.
The freshman powerhouse of Finke, Stokowski, Kieran Smith, Trey Freeman, and Will Davis, combined with Rooney makes for an impressive challenge to both the NC State Wolfpack and the Indiana Hoosiers.
Other teams in the running:
The University of Michigan, Stanford University, the University of Louisville, Texas A&M, and Southern California were all ranked in the top 10 of the College Swimming Coaches Association’s final 2019 poll in February.
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