Feb. 25, 2016
By Lizzie Mikes
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming team is in ninth place after Thursday night, racing in the ACC Championship meet at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. The Irish advanced nine swimmers to the evening’s finals in the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and 200 free relay events. They had the third most finals swimmers of any team racing, behind only defending Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champions North Carolina State and Louisville.
“I’m really proud of the guys, they’re stepping up, and matching up with people and racing really hard,” head coach Mike Litzinger said. “We had some lifetime best swims tonight, and having nine kids come back at night is really something special for us. We pretty much doubled our output from last year, and we’re starting to run down some teams that were ahead of us with diving points. I’m looking forward to some really good swims tomorrow.”
In the 500 free, Trent Jackson and Richard Mannix both swam in the B final, after touching the wall in 4:22.89 (Jackson) and 4:23.11 (Mannix) in their morning prelims. Both preliminary times stand as NCAA B cuts. Jackson placed 12th, touching the wall in 4:22.52, while Mannix finished 16th (4:28.71).
“I want to see Trent keep it rolling,” Litzinger said on the redheaded junior from Austin, Texas. “He is a key breaststroker, sure, but he’s swimming the 200 free tomorrow, which is really interesting. I think he’s got a lot of confidence coming in here; he’s a heck of an athlete, he’s a big guy, and he split his 200 free of the relay and his 500 free as well as I’ve seen in a long time. His time tonight would have been in the final heat, but when you’re locked in the 9-16 place, you’ve got to do what you can with it, and he did a lot. Having a lifetime best swim tonight, twice, over a thousand yards is pretty good. We’re looking forward to a great 200 from him, and we’ll dabble in a little breaststroke later in the meet.”
Other 500 free swimmers include Thomas Anderson and Connor Brown, who swam in the C final. Anderson finished 24th (4:27.01), while Brown came in 18th (4:24.26). Joseph Petrone finished 34th with a 4:29.74 showing in the morning.
In the 200 IM, five out of the seven morning swimmers clinched NCAA B-cut times in their heats, with many of the times standing as lifetime personal bests. Kevin Bradley (1:46.76 prelims) and Rob Whitacre (1:47.35 prelims) advanced to the C finals, finishing 19th (1:46.42) and 22nd (1:47.59) respectively. Reed Fujan just missed the cut for the evening session, finishing 25th (1:47.46 prelims). In the morning, Matthew Grauslys clocked in at 1:48.11, Shane McKenzie swam a 1:48.66, Steven Shek finished in 1:49.42 and Andrew Jensen touched in at 1:52.15.
In the 50 free, the Irish saw three swimmers advance into evening finals, and one senior swam a lifetime best. Michael Hudspith took second in his heat and swam a personal best in the race, touching in 20.79. Freshman Tabahn Afrik swam a 20.12 showing to advance to the C final, where he placed 22nd and clocked in at 20.20. Daniel Speers, who anchored the 200 medley relay Wednesday night, swam a 19.82 race in the morning to advance to the B finals, where he took 10th place and touched in at 19.71. Justin Plaschka nearly broke the school record in his morning swim, touching the wall in 19.69 – one tenth of a second from the record. He advanced to the A final, where he finished eighth (19.72) and earned the Irish 22 points.
“Frank’s a world class athlete and world class person, so any record he holds that we can chase down is something special,” Litzinger said when asked about Plaschka being so close to setting a new school record in the 50 free, beating Frank Dyer’s time of 19.57. “Justin’s developed so much in his time at Notre Dame; I recruited him when I was at North Carolina, and he’s a great athlete, great kid, and he’s getting stronger and learning every day. Same thing with Daniel Speers, every time they hit the water it’s a new experience. You try and tweak that swim a little bit more, and talk about a start or a break, or how they can hold their line coming off the wall. A perfect example is Justin in the individual 50, and Justin in the leadoff leg of the relay tonight; we adjusted how he approached the wall into the finish and he finished right on and went a lifetime best.”
Plaschka’s relay leadoff split of 19.61 helped fuel the Irish to fifth place in the 200 free relay. The team of Plaschka, Speers, Afrik and Bradley clocked in at 1:18.46, breaking the school record of 1:18.74 that was set almost two years ago to the date at the 2014 ACC Championship meet.
The Irish enter day three of competition in ninth place, with 257 points. Prelims for the 400 IM, 100 Fly, 200 Free, 100 Breast and 100 Back begin at 10 a.m. ET.
Lizzie Mikes serves as the Media Services Coordinator at the University of Notre Dame. A 2013 graduate of Johnson & Wales University, she oversees credential management and is the athletic communications director for Fighting Irish men’s and women’s swimming and diving and track and field. She has assisted with numerous NCAA postseason events hosted by Notre Dame, and is heavily involved in the day-to-day tasks of the athletic communications office.