College Swimming Roundup: NAIA National Championships

Pac 12 Men's + MAC Men's + D2 NCAA Preview

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🏊‍♀️ SWIMS OF THE WEEK 🏊🏽‍♂️

First national championship of the year, plus the last couple conference meets.

NAIA National Championships

An upset! Winners of the past 5 men’s national championships, Keiser came in as the favorite again this year. They boasted the best swimmer in the association (Noel De Geus) and strong IM and sprint groups. Keiser jumped out to a lead on the first two days on the strength of national records in the 50 free (De Geus, 19.57) and 200 IM (Alex Kusik, 1:46.76). Fellow Florida team St. Thomas, however, started to make a move on Day 3. Their Day 1 national record in the 800 free relay (6:30.18 - Montero 1:38.78/Garden 1:37.25/Birkett 1:37.73/Laureyssens 1:36.42) foreshadowed their 3 A finalists in the individual 200, led by Daniel Laureyssens 1:36.36 win, Steven Aimable took the 100 fly in 47.29, and Alex Marrero (48.10) and Matt Mizell (48.16) went 1-2 in the 100 back to give the Bobcats a slim lead that Keiser would retake on a national record 400 medley relay win (3:11.87 - Quiroz 48.78/De Geus 51.65/Margaritov 47.74/Boeckmann 43.70). Another highlight of the day, and the best performance of the weekend, was De Geus’s 100 breast. He broke his own national record with a 51.43 in the morning, and took the win at night in 51.80.

The final day was a dogfight - both schools placed 3 in the top 8 of the 200 back and traded off champions in the 100 free (St. Thomas’s Alex Marrero 43.86) and 200 breast (De Geus 1:56.29). Aimable took his second championship with a 200 fly win (1:46.56), and the meet was suddenly down to the final event. St. Thomas used their four 100 free A finalists to win the event and their first national championship in an NAIA record 2:56.22 (Birkett 44.42/Garden 44.40/Marrero 43.55/Laureyssens 43.85).

University of the Cumberlands, led by Jokubas Jankauskus’s 1:45.45 200 back title and Milligan University featuring Stephen Gilbert’s 3:53.52 400 IM championship filled out the podium.

The women’s meet was all Keiser, their third straight championship. Keiser took 4 of the 5 relays and Rachel Bradley (500 free 4:56.86, 400 IM 4:22.41) took two championships - the 400 IM an NAIA record - to lead the Seahawks. Notably, their 400 medley relay (3:44.00 - Lecomte 56.25/Biltoft-Jensen 1:01.64/Laurent 54.71/Sofoulis 51.40) broke an NAIA record from 2012.

Nikoline Biltoft-Jensen, part of that record-breaking relay, was also in the best race of the meet. The reigning NAIA champ and meet record holder got off to a scorching 29.12 in the 100 breast, but St. THomas’s Stella Warborn reeled her in to take a 1:01.41-1:01.54 win, both under the old 1:02.01 record. SCAD’s Nikki Hahn (1:02.85) and Olivet Nazarene’s Julie Vega (1:02.90) also came within reach of the old record.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Wilson’s Maaike Broersma was the only three-event winner on the women’s side, taking championships in the 50 free (23.25) and both backstrokes (54.12/1:58.06).

Pac-12 Men’s Champs

Not much intrigue for the team title here as Cal’s best four swimmers traveled to the Pro Series in Chicago for some LCM races so Arizona State ran away with the thing, but plenty of fantastic swimming all over the place with important ramifications for next month’s NCAA champs.

Let’s start with the records. ASU opened up the meet with a new NCAA 200 medley relay record (1:20.55 - Dolan 20.30/Marchand 22.71/Kharun 19.30/Kulow 18.24).

That wasn’t it though. Leon Marchand tried on the 500 free with a little rest, resulting in another NCAA record 4:06.18, while World Champ in the LCM version of the 200 back, Hubert Kos, broke Ryan Murphy’s NCAA record in the SCY version with a 1:35.69. End of the day, ASU took 16 event wins - 14 more than anyone else, and posted 8 NCAA leading individual swims and 4 of the 5 relays. Further than their stars, they got outstanding swims from a couple of bubble guys to cement NCAA spots (Dobrzanski 51.52/1:52.98 breasts, Senc-Samadzic 45.18 100 fly, Peel 19.03 50 free).

Outside of the Sun Devils, Stanford also had an impressive meet despite Andrei Minakov having a couple off swims and bowing out before 100 fly finals. Freshman Rex Maurer starred, his week featuring a 3:38.10 400 IM with a blazing 49.90 closing 100. The Cardinal also got a bunch of guys off the bubble and into March-guaranteed status - Henry McFadden was probably good but popped a 1:32.03 200 free (with a 1:30.87 relay split). Andres Dupont led off that relay with a 1:32.42 to get himself in. Liam Custer shook off an iffy freshman season with a 14:46.22 mile, nearing his high school PR. Stanford finished up the bubble clearing with Rick Mihm (1:42.10/3:41.92 IMs) and Aaron Sequeira (45.23/1:39.62 back, 45.09 fly).

In other nationally-important swims, Cal got guaranteed NCAA qualifying swims from Keaton Jones (4:13.73 500, 1:39.18 200 back), Tyler Kopp (3:42.13 400 IM), Matt Jensen (41.57 100 free), Sebastian Somerset (1:39.84 200 back), Robin Hanson (1:31.95 200 free), and probably Trent Frandson (1:32.72 200 free) and Arizona got a couple qualifiers in Tommy Palmer (19.08 50 free) and Haakon Naughton (1:41.67 200 fly).

MAC Men’s Championships

A streak continued here as Miami-OH took their fourth straight MAC Championship. Henju Duvenhage led the way with three wins - the 200 IM (1:43.83) and the 100 fly/back double (46.37/46.17). Miami also got an individual win from Allen Cotton, who had a big meet with a 7-second PR in his 400 IM win (3:48.26) as well as a 2.5 second PR 200 IM (1:45.98) and a 1.5 second PR 200 fly (1:45.43).

SIU’s sprint group has been extremely strong for a mid-major the past few years, and they hit another milestone with Alex Santiago emphatically punching his ticket to NCAAs with a 19.18 50 free. That’s a half a second PR for the 2024 Swimmer of the Meet who was 21.47 out of high school. Santiago also took the 100 free (42.42) and 200 free (1:36.63).

Ball State’s Joey Garberick was another highlight, his 51.93 100 breast putting him on the NCAA bubble, and his 1:54.78 200 breast giving him the stroke double champ with a 3 second win.

🏊🏽‍♂️ Weekend Preview 🏊🏼

D2 NCAAs from Tuesday through Saturday!

The Nova Southeastern women look to win a second consecutive title powered by their mighty mid- and distance groups. They have multiple NCAA records in sight in those events and Rafaela Raurich’s butterflys. Drury, however, has the biggest roster, bringing 13 women led by GLVC Swimmer of the Year Mellie Wijk, while Colorado Mesa with their elite duo of Benedict Nagy and Agata Naskret, UIndy with top breaststroker Celina Schmidt and relay hammer Kirabo Namutebi, and Tampa with 4-event qualifier Mady Barnes all match NSU with 11 swimmers each.

On the men’s side, defending champ Indy and Colorado Mesa have the high-water mark with 11 qualifiers each, and they may have the best two swimmers in the division with Cedric Buessing for the Greyhounds and Ben Sampson for the Mavericks. Mesa, however, has to show they can live up to their altitude adjusted seed times. Tampa brings ten, led by their gang of Florida State transfers, while Drury brings a more international flavor with their 10 qualifiers and McKendree’s 10 are led by Jack Lustig, looking to become the first sub-1:40 D2 200 flyer.

Outside of the team races, I’m excited to watch Henderson State’s powerful sprinters, with Kiara Pozvai the top seed in the 50 and 100 (the latter by almost a second) and international level performer Lamar Taylor the defending champ in the 50, 100, and 100 back and leader of a number of relays with legitimate national championship aspirations.

Meanwhile, the best race of the meet might be the men’s 1650 free - returning champ Eric Hieber (15:03.48), returning 2023 top performer Buessing (15:02.54 at 2023 GLVCs), and four other 2023 top 8 finishers return, while 2024’s top times are from freshmen in Jacob Hamlin (15:01.66) and Khalil Ben Ajmia (15:06.46). If everything goes right, we could have a last 100 race to the finish with a handful of guys fighting for sub-15 times.

We’ll also see the CSCAA National Invitational Championship, the top meet for D1 swimmers missing NCAA qualifying berths.