March 23, 2016
By Lizzie Mikes
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming program sent several team members to Atlanta, Georgia, this week for the 2016 NCAA Championship. The meet will be held March 23-26 at the McAuley Aquatic Center, on the campus of Georgia Tech.
Notre Dame sends a strong freestyle relay lineup to the 2016 NCAA Championship.
The Irish qualified one individual entry in sophomore Justin Plaschka (Smithtown, N.Y. / Hauppage), who will be racing in the 50 and 100 free in addition to the 100 fly. Plaschka also qualified with freestyle relay teammates Daniel Speers (Bournemouth Dorset, U.K. / The Millfield School), Tabahn Afrik (Holland, Mich. / West Ottawa) and Reed Fujan (Byron, Minn. / Byron) to swim in the 200, 400 and 800 free relay events. Fujan is a late medical scratch, and has been cleared by the meet committee to be replaced by freshman Matthew Grauslys (Manchester, N.H. / Manchester Memorial). Trent Jackson (Austin, Texas / Vista Ridge) will swim the lead leg of the 800 in lieu of Plaschka.
“Matt is a very capable alternate,” head coach Mike Litzinger said on the last-minute lineup change. “He has been training with the rest of the relay guys the last few weeks, and hopefully they can hold up the front end of the relay with him closing the deal. I hope the excitement of swimming in this meet gets everyone pumped up to perform their best.”
Each of the swimmers earned their invitations at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship meet. For Plaschka, his second-place finish in the 100 fly (46.37) was fast enough to get him the invitation, while his leadoff splits in the 200 free relay (19.61) and 400 free relay (43.05) secured him a lane at the national meet. The 400 free relay earned an automatic bid with their second-place finish (2:52.18), which opened the door to be invited in the 200 and 800 relays, where they had swum B-cut times.
“The guys racing this week are racing in one of the fastest short course meets in the world,” Litzinger stated. “You can’t be a bystander, you have to be a competitor in this meet; you have to put your cap on and go the best of your ability in every event. When I came on as a coach with the guys in December, they could have just packed it in and said ‘wait until next year’, but they didn’t. They, the girls, and us as coaches, we all made it work, and the kids took it to the next level. The guys kept after it and swam exceptionally at the ACC meet, and proved they have what it takes to be a competitive team and perform at an elite level. Looking just at the swimming points, we would have been fourth at the ACC meet; that is a phenomenal accomplishment for these guys. They know they belong at the NCAA meet, and this is where they need to keep pushing themselves to be at this time of year.”
“I’m really excited to have been invited individually for my first time,” Plaschka stated. “It’s been my goal all year to qualify, and I’m really excited. My goals are just to definitely go in with a level head and perform as best as I can in relays and individuals races, and if possible, break Frank [Dyer]’s records. I’m ready for this adventure, and I’m really excited for it all.”
Grauslys, Speers and Afrik join Plaschka in making their first NCAA Championship appearance, while Jackson is making his second consecutive trip as a relay-only swimmer. Jackson, Afrik, Speers and Grauslys dive in Wednesday night in the 800 free, where the Irish are seeded 19th (6:23.77) to start the meet. Thursday evening, the 200 free relay awaits, with the 20th seed (1:18.46). Capping off the week is the 400 free relay on Saturday, which features Notre Dame seeded at 14th (2:52.18).
Swimming prelims start at 10 a.m. ET and continue throughout the day. Wednesday’s final session, Thursday’s swimming (prelims and finals), and Friday and Saturday morning swim sessions will be live-streamed on NCAA.com, while the finals sessions will be streamed through ESPN3.com on Friday and Saturday. All finals sessions start at 6 p.m. ET. Full recaps from the meet will be posted on und.com.
Plaschka’s Top Times 2015-16
50 Free: 19.61 (Lead leg 200 free relay, ACC Championship)
100 Free: 43.05 (Lead leg 400 free relay, ACC Championship)
100 Back: 49.80 (Purdue Invitational)
100 Fly: 46.37 (ACC Championship)
Top Relay Lineups/Times 2015-16
200 Free Relay: Plaschka, Speers, Afrik, Kevin Bradley / 1:18.46 (ACC Championship)
400 Free Relay: Plaschka, Speers, Afrik, Fujan / 2:52.18 (ACC Championship)
— ND —
Lizzie Mikes serves as 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.