March 9, 2016
By Lizzie Mikes
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swim team received word Wednesday that sophomore sprinter Justin Plaschka (Smithtown, N.Y. / Hauppage) earned an invitation to race at the 2016 NCAA Championship Meet. The meet will be held March 23-26 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Ga. Georgia Tech will serve as the host institution.
“I’m very proud, and very excited for Justin, our relays, and for Notre Dame,” head coach Mike Litzinger said. “I am excited to see just how fast our men can really go in one of the most exciting environments our sport has to offer. Having success at the NCAA level was crucial for our program this season. The men made it their mission to give their best effort together as a team, and at the end of the day, they have truly accomplished that. The NCAA invite is a tribute to both individuals like Justin, and the team.”
Plaschka, who qualified in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly, owes the trip to the national meet to his phenomenal performance at the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship meet. He finished second in the 100 fly (46.37) and set the school record in the process in Greensboro, N.C., in addition to finishing eighth in the 50 free (19.72) and taking seventh in the 100 free (43.39) at the conference meet.
“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 read for this adventure, and I’m really excited for it all.”
Plaschka also earned an automatic time with the men’s 400 free relay lineup of Reed Fujan (Byron, Minn. / Byron), Daniel Speers (Bornemouth Dorset, U.K. / The Millfield School) and Tabahn Afrik (Holland, Mich. / West Ottawa). The foursome shattered the school record at the conference meet to finish second overall (2:52.18). Fujan swam in last year’s NCAA Championship meet as a relay-only swimmer, but for Plaschka, Speers and Afrik, 2016 marks their first career trip to the title meet.
“I’m tremendously excited to go to NCAAs,” Fujan exclaimed immediately after the ACC race. “There isn’t another group of guys I’d want to be going with, and as odd as it sounds, I wasn’t terribly nervous up on the blocks. The real stars of the relay were the first three swimmers, who put me in the position to finish the race under the A-cut. I’m so happy we were able to get that relay, and everyone on that relay deserves it.”
In addition to automatically qualifying in the 400 free, the team also earned invitations to race in the 200 free and 800 free relays. A grand total of 270 participants – 235 swimmers, 35 divers – will compete at the championships. Swimmers qualified by meeting established minimum times for events in which they entered throughout the regular season. Divers will be determined by performances at the Zone Diving Meets, held March 7-12. A complete list of swimmers competing is available at www.usaswimming.org/ncaa. Selected divers will be added on Sunday, March 13.
ESPN3.com will stream finals sessions Friday and Saturday live. Additionally, ESPNU will air a 90-minute show at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, Wednesday, April 6.
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.