Who is our California Chrome?: Some brief thoughts on the 2013-14 collegiate season.

One of the remarkable occurrences in our sport takes place in the form of a swim-off any championship meet.  Much is revealed about the athletes and programs when they are asked to do something again...and against another opponent.


At the 2014 NCAA Swimming & Diving championships in Austin this year, Michigan’s Richard Funk & Dartmouth’s Nejc Zupan tied for eighth in the 100 breaststroke.  After taking the swim-off with a :51.76 (and nearly a .7 drop), what was remarkable was the effect it had on the Wolverine Junior as he went on to finish third at night in the finals.  More fireworks were provided in Austin in the very next event where three tied for 8th as well in the 100 backstroke.  This reminded me of another spectacular swim-off that took place 10 years ago at the Division I men’s NCAA Championships between Auburn’s Fred Bosquet & California’s Rolandas Gimbutas.  Following a tie for eighth place in the 50 free in the morning heats, Bosquet gave the eventual team champions plenty to celebrate in winning the swim off and then eventually the subsequent final from the outside lane.  With the meet in short course meters, his :21.10 was part of three consecutive world records set that night.  (team mate George Bovell-200IM & Texas in the 400 Medley Relay.)


Very cool & well deserved Honor.

When you think of Coach George Kennedy, one of the many superlatives that comes to mind is quality.  He consistently is near the top of the Division III hierarchy demonstrating that tradition never graduates at North Charles Street in Baltimore.  Coach Kennedy was recently selected as one of the top 50 leaders in the world by Forbes magazine.  One of the many reasons was for his work with freshman standout & distance swimmer Andrew Greenhalgh which is featured in the print publication.


Don’t Mess With This Longhorn!

In preparing this publication each year, sometimes you come across a story that does not fit any category yet is too good not too mention.  Junior swimmer from the University of Texas Kip Darmody (pictured below) battled mono for much of the season.  Out of competition for most of the first semester, ranked 69th in the 100 nationally and out of the top 100 as late as Feburary 15th, it would be hard imagine returning to his 2013 All American form.  However, this is another example of why our sport rocks as the Longhorn standout made the most of his altered season.  In addition to finaling in both backstroke events with new career best times by a significant amount, Kip swam on all five of the Longhorn relays at NCAA with the lowest finish being 5th in the 800 Free Relay.  Leading off the 200 Medley relay on Friday night with a meet best :20.88 was pretty awesome.  Knowing what he went through in season to get there....makes it pretty special!


“Victory! Swimmers defeat......”

No doubt some incredible things take place in season within a dual meet.  The 2013 14 dual meet season was not without some historic meets.  Included in this group was the William & Mary men who defeated CAA titan UNCW for the first time ever during the first weekend of November.  Virginia Tech over Virginia for the first time in 32 years and Rice over SMU for first time ever!  “Victory! Swimmers defeat SMU in dual meet 151-129” was the headline for that historic meet for the Rice Owls back in November.

A pair of University of Nevada swimmers, returning writer Erin Fuss and newcomer Michelle Forman write about the featured dual meets.  As difficult as it is to pinpoint just a few meets to cover, a very big meet that takes place in California has become a regular in this publication.


Rarities

Towards the end of this past season, I witnessed something that caught my attention yet did not react quickly enough to get a photo of the occurrence.  At a championship meet, (cannot remember the exact event), the order of finish in the heat was the in.  Though I remember saying to myself, I am sure this occurs, I cannot recall a race where I noticed this pattern.  Another oddity occurred this season in a dual meet with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Mary Washington where two ties in the same event occurred.  What makes this even more unique was the fact that in each case, it was the team mates that tied.  Fortunately this photo was not missed, submitted by student-athlete Stephanie Hallcok ’16 of Mary Washington and can be seen in the 2014 print publication.


Swimming & Diving in the media.

Reading a recent edition of Sports Illustrated, I could not help notice ( and be proud) to see not one but two of the weekly six Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd be taken up by swimmers including a well-deserved spotlight on Johns Hopkins junior standout Anastasia Boganovski and her brilliant performance at the 2014 DIII NCAA meet.  Several swimmers including Georgia-bound Gunnar Bentz, Cal freshman Celina Li,  Auburn-bound Jacob Molacek, and Georgia’s Chase Kalisz have made their way into Faces in the Crowd recently as it is always great to see members of our sport earn and receive notoriety in the mainstream media.  Returning writer Damion Dennis covers Chase’s amazing swim in the 400 IM later in this publication.

               

This story never gets old....

Am going to plagiarize a little from last year’s publication for the next mention.  Awesome job goes out to senior Cassie Sorna (Towson) in getting to her first NCAA meet this year.  Similarly and on the men’s side, North Carolina’s Alex Gianino made his first and only NCAA meet last March. Neither took in enough votes to appear in the honorable mention page.  However, each of their progressions are too impressive not to mention.  Others names with similar rates of improvement include Morgan Hartigan (Wyoming) & Samantha Zuch (Utah.)  Job well done to say the very least!


Is there a California Chrome in collegiate swimming and diving?

You may be familiar with the story by now as a relatively small investment coupled with a set of random occurrences has disrupted the traditional path to supremacy in thoroughbred horse racing.  At the time of this writing & with one race to go, the horse is in position to achieve the triple crown of it’s sport.


Earlier this year, senior swimmer Emily McClellan placed 2nd in the 100 breaststroke to become the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s first swimming All American.  In 2010, University of Cincinnati stand out Josh Schneider provided a similar feel in winning the 50 Free at NCAAs.  And each year, athletes from all over the NCAA will arrive onto the national scene to become very competitive.  In comparing this to the story of California Chrome, it is still difficult to come up with a name of an athlete who, like California Chrome, arrives so suddenly and with such dominance.  Yes, the sports are different.  However, I cannot help but wonder to what extent this is possible in competitive swimming?


A request for support

A small fundraising campaign is now underway to financially support this project.  In addition to raising funds to pay for the printing of the publication, I personally would like to offer a small stipend for our guest writers and photographer who to date have contributed their time at no cost.  Furthermore, I envision being able to present each honoree with an actual award in addition to recognition.  To learn more and support this project, go to; http://igg.me/at/swimmingdivinghonors2014/x/7701815


Go Swimming & Diving


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Photo: One final plunge for retiring UNCW Coach Dave Allen, (submitted by UNCW athlete Matt Byrd)



 

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