Texas wins 12th NCAA swimming and diving championship

Texas, which received dominating performances from some of its top swimmers, stormed to the school’s 12th men’s NCAA swimming and diving championship at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center on Saturday.

The title marks the first time Texas has won consecutive national titles since it won three in a row from 2000-02.

California finished behind Texas for the second year in a row.

This is the team’s 12th title since coach Eddie Reese took over before the 1978-79 season. He now passes former Ohio State coach Mike Peppe for the most men’s NCAA swimming and diving titles in the sport’s history.

“When I started this sport, I never had a plan to be an Olympic coach, never had a plan to win an NCAA. I just like to see people go fast,” Reese said.

Records were falling left and right, and Texas was responsible for breaking several of them.

Texas junior Will Licon broke the NCAA and American records in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of one minute, 48.12 seconds, edging California senior Josh Prenot by over a full second (1:49.38). Licon and Prenot have been friends for years, and have always enjoyed competing against each other.

"We go back a long ways, it started off at some swim camp we were at together…he's just a great guy and I'm glad I was able to be with him for his last collegiate swim," Licon said.

Licon’s 200 breast performance was crucial, as it clinched the team title for Texas. His first-place finish gave the Longhorns a total of 455.5 points after 18 events.

Joseph Schooling, a sophomore, added to the total of individual titles for Texas, setting the NCAA and American records in the 200 butterfly with a final time of 1:37.97, beating out teammate Jack Conger (1:38.06). Schooling had also broken the NCAA and American records in the 100 fly Friday night (44.01).

If there were any doubts that Ryan Murphy was one of the elite collegiate swimmers, his performance at this year’s NCAAs silenced those doubts in a big way. The junior from Cal completed his second three-peat of the weekend by taking home the 200 backstroke title with a time of 1:35.73 seconds. This shattered the NCAA and American records he set last year (1:36.77) by over a full second.

"After every meet I watch race video, try to find something to improve on…just seeing that personal development, that's a huge thing for me," Murphy said.

Murphy also took home a three-peat in the 100 backstroke Friday evening with a time of 43.51. He’s established himself as a favorite to represent the U.S. Olympic team in Rio this summer.

Florida sophomore Caeleb Dressel continued the trend of setting new records by breaking his own American and NCAA records for the 100 freestyle with a commanding time of 40.46.

The most exciting finish of the evening came from an underdog in the longest race: the 1,650 freestyle.

Pennsylvania senior Chris Swanson brought an electric conclusion to his final collegiate race, storming out of nowhere in the last 50 yards to take home the NCAA title with a time of 14:31.54, barely sneaking past South Carolina sophomore Akaram Mahmoud by eight-tenths of a second.

“You may never see another finish like that for the rest of your life,” the announcer said.

Swanson’s win gave the Ivy League its first individual NCAA swim and dive champion since 1990, when Princeton’s 200 medley relay team took home the title.

“I think this will really fire up the rest of the guys on the team. … You don’t have to go to Texas or Cal to win a national championship or even make it to a national championship,” Swanson said. “You can be anywhere.”

Georgia finished in fifth place with 239 points. It was their eighth top-10 finish over the past nine seasons.

While the Bulldog men did not equal what the women did last week and win the championship, Georgia swimmers reached their top-five goal.

The Bulldogs finished fifth in the 4x100 free relay and got solid contributions from Pace Clark and Gunnar Bentz in the 200 fly, who finished fourth and seventh, respectively. Michael Trice also helped the UGA cause by finishing in seventh place in the 100 free.

“It’s great, it goes up on that banner we have every year,” Clark said. “So just to keep that going up there is great, and just to send the seniors off that way is perfect.”