The men’s NCAA Championship meet has gotten incredibly fun the last few years. Without regard to fanbase or preferences, these competitive and unpredictable meets, with stars swimming big times and teams rallying to rise and fighting but falling has really helped show what swimming can be as a ‘spectator sport.’
Like we did for the women’s meet last week, it’s now time to highlight superlatives, anomalies, and fun facts from the men’s meet that we wish we could have fit into headlines, but just ran out of time for.
20 Headlines We Didn’t Write
1st – Cal – This was the Cal men’s 6th NCAA team championship, which ties Indiana for 7th most all-time in the official NCAA team championship era (since 1937). This was the first time in Cal program history that they had an A-finalist in every swimming event, highlighting the balance that won them the team title. A fun side story: Nate Biondi, the son of the legendary World Record holder and 8-time Olympic gold medalist Matt Biondi, achieved something his dad never did: an NCAA team championship. Cal’s best finish in dad’s era: a runner-up placing behind arch-rivals Stanford in 1986.
2nd – Texas – While the Longhorns couldn’t pull off a 5-peat in front of their home crowd, the Longhorns have plenty to be proud of after this meet. That includes their 475 points, which are actually more than they had when they won the title last year (449), which was the lowest-scoring win total since the 200 medley relay was added in the 1988-1989 season and platform diving was added to the NCAA schedule in the 1989-1990 season.
3rd – Indiana – The Hoosiers finished in 3rd-place at NCAAs for the 2nd-straight season. This marks the team’s first back-to-back top 3 finish in over 40 years. The last time they did it was when the team finished 2nd in 1974 and 1975, which came after winning 6-straight NCAA titles under the guidance of legendary coach Doc Counsilman.
4th – NC State – The Wolfpack have finished 4th at the NCAA Championships in each of the last 4 seasons. Their 5 all-time 4th-place finishes (1955, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) leaves them as the only ACC men’s team to finish in the top 4 at nationals. The only other team with a top 7 finish at NCAAs, prior to this season, was UNC, who was 5th in 1953, 1955, and 1957. That all changed when…
5th – Louisville – The Louisville Cardinals men’s team finished 5th at NCAAs, which is their best-ever finish at the meet. It improved upon their 9th-place finish in 2012, where the Cardinals jumped 8 spots to announce their arrival as a national power program. They are the first ACC team to put both men’s and women’s teams in the top 5 at the same NCAA Championship meet.
6th – Florida – It’s hard to find a stat to quantify “still somehow pulled off 6th after graduating Caeleb Dressel and most of their other big swimmers,” so instead we’ll tamper it a touch: this was a really weird NCAA Championship meet. The Gators finished 6th with just 164 points. Last year, that would have been 9th. In fact, it’s the lowest 6th-place score at an NCAA Championship meet since LSU also scored 164 points for 6th place at the 1988 championship (before the 200 medley and platform diving were added as NCAA events, meaning fewer points were available). The previous low total for an NCAA 6th-place finisher in the modern event era? 185 from Arizona in 1998. The average score for a 6th-place finisher in that era is about 236 points.
7th – Alabama – Including their 2nd NCAA title in the 200 medley relay in the last 4 seasons, the Alabama men finished higher at NCAAs this year (7th) than they did at SECs last year (8th). That’s impressive.
8th – Harvard – We already have written a lot about Havard’s magical run to 8th place. They were the first Ivy League team to finish in the top 10 at men’s NCAAs in 50 years, Dean Farris became Harvard’s first NCAA champion in the 100 free since 1957, the all-time fastest swim ever in the 200 free, and all of that good stuff. So we’ll take this a different route and instead look at what the group that joined him at NCAAs achieved: Brennan Novak earned first team All-America honors with an 8th-place finish in the 500 free (he was a 4:13 in prelims, but swam 4:21 in finals). That marks the first time since 2005 that Harvard has had multiple First Team All-Americans at the same NCAA Championship meet. Their 7 total First Team All-Americans (Farris, Novak, Marcoux, Gures, Goddard, Reihman, and Rawls) are the most since the team had eight First Team All-Americans in 1957. That was also the last time Harvard won an NCAA title in the 100 free – thanks to senior Henry Dyer.
9th – Ohio State – The Ohio State men were one of the best turnaround stories of the 2018-2019 NCAA season. The Buckeyes were just 28th at NCAAs last year, with 25 points, but vaulted all the way to 9th this year with 124 points. This was a young team too: they graduate only 7 NCAA diving points from senior Aaron Daniels-Freeman, and just one leg (Mossimo Chavez on the 200 free relay, who split 19.38) of a scoring relay. But here’s the stat that will really light up Columbus: this was the first time since 1986 than Ohio State has finished higher at NCAAs than their arch-rivals Michigan. This year, the Buckeyes were 9th and Michigan was 13th. In 1986, Ohio State was 13th and Michigan was 25th. That Ohio State team was also led by impressive non-seniors, including Patrick Jeffrey and Michael Wantuck, who would both go on to be NCAA Champions. This year’s star was sophomore Paul DeLakis.
10th – Virginia – Another great turnaround story through these middle ranks: snaring just a 1-point margin over 11th-place finishers Tennessee and Missouri, the Cavaliers finished in the top 10 at NCAAs for the first time since 2011. What’s most incredible about that is that 2 years ago, the year before Todd DeSorbo took over as head coach, the Cavaliers scored 0 points at NCAAs. We’re not sure if that’s ever happened before (maybe in the very early years), but DeSorbo is earning every penny that Virginia is paying him.
(TIE) 11th – Tennessee – The Tennessee Volunteers finished 11th for the 2nd-straight season, including Colin Zeng, who was named the CSCAA Diver of the Meet after winning the 1-meter (he’s won the platform event in 2 of the last 3 seasons). Tennessee has a legendary diving program, and while Zeng is not the first Volunteer to earn First Team All-America honors in each of the 3 diving disciplines, he is the first to do so in back-to-back seasons.
(TIE) 11th – Missouri – Missouri has now finished in the top 11 at the NCAA Championships 55 points in each of the last 4 seasons. Before the Greg Rhodenbaugh era began (2010-2011), the program’s best finish at NCAAs was 20th (with 13 points, and only 31 teams scoring). They had only scored 5 times before Rhodenbaugh, but have now scored in each of the last 9 NCAA seasons. Their 105 points scored at this year’s meet was almost double the number of points they scored in the entire pre-Rhodenbaugh era, combined (55 total points). We don’t know what’s going to happen with the future of Rhodenbaugh, who is still on leave pending results of a Title IX investigation, but the program’s performance in the pool has markedly improved since he arrived in Columbia.
13th – Michigan – While their rivals from Ohio State beat them at NCAAs this year, Michigan still has the edge in one category: they scored at NCAAs for the 83rd-consecutive year. That’s every official NCAA team championship in history (and they were also the dominant team of the pre-team-championship era). Ohio State ranks 2nd in that category with 82 years of scoring: they missed the points in 1957, which is their only blemish. Stanford ranks 3rd with 76 scoring seasons, USC ranks 4th with 71 scoring seasons, Indiana ranks 5th with 66 scoring seasons, Texas ranks 6th with 64 scoring seasons, and Harvard ranks 7th with 61.
14th – Florida State – The Seminoles tied for their best team finish of this millennium (they were 12th in 1999) to cap a breakthrough season from the team that included a number of surprise ACC event titles. A program that has had a lot of very good sprinters in its history (Paul Murray, Mark Weber, Pawel Sankowich) put together arguably its best overall sprint group this season: the 5th-place finish by the team’s 200 free relay was its highest in the history of that event. They did it with a couple of big seniors that they’ll lose, but the Seminoles returned 0 individual points from last year’s NCAA meet, so they know how to rebuild in a hurry.
15th – Stanford – This was Stanford’s lowest finish at NCAAs since the 1978-1979 season, where they were also finished 15th. The Cardinal were dinged by injuries to Jack Levant and Grant Shoults. This was such a tight meet through the middle placings, that those two would have almost definitely have pushed Stanford in to the top 10 (they were only 9 points away from a top 10 finish, and Shoults scored 18 at NCAAs last year, while Levant was seeded to score 17). But there was one very big silver lining for the Cardinal: Abrahm Devine defended his title in the men’s 400 IM. He’s the first Stanford swimmer to successfully defend an individual NCAA title in any event since Peter Marshall won back-t0-back titles in the 100 yard backstroke in 2002 and 2003.
16th – Arizona – This marked the 3rd season out of the last 4 in which the Wildcats finished 16th at NCAAs. That might feel a little stagnant, but the Wildcats only returned 3 individual points from NCAAs last year. Next year, they’ll have a much stronger baseline to build from: their one key loss is Chatham Dobbs, who scored 11 points and swam on 4 relays. Next year will be time for the Wildcats to start climbing the ladder again.
17th – Texas A&M – The A&M men graduated a huge class after last season, and brought in a fantastic freshman class. The result was an actual 18-point increase over 2018, even though they slid 3 spots in the rankings. Shaine Casas, after choosing the 200 fly over the 200 back, finished 11th in that event at NCAAs and 13th in the 200 IM. The last time that the A&M men had an individual swimmer score All-America honors as a freshman was Alfredo Jacobo in 2004, where he placed 12th in the 100 breaststroke. The last A&M swimmer that we could find who won multiple individual All-America awards in his first year of varsity swimming: John Harrington in 1959 (back when athletes typically only had 3 years of varsity college athletics).
18th – Georgia – This year’s 18th-place finish was Georgia’s worst at an NCAA Championship meet since they finished 32nd at the 1992 NCAA Championship meet, and only scored 2 relay points at the meet. 4 more All-America honors for junior Javier Acevedo gives him 11 total for his career, which ties him for 20th place all-time in Georgia men’s swimming & diving history. If the Bulldogs rebound next season, he still has a shot at the school’s all-time top 5 list: 18 would tie him with Mark Dylla for 5th-most ever in program history.
19th – Minnesota – Max McHugh‘s 50.30 in the 100 breaststroke is now the fastest-ever done by an NCAA freshman (Reece Whitley’s 51.11 from this season is second-fastest, while Kevin Cordes was the previous fastest at 51.32). The same goes for his 200 breaststroke time of 1:49.41. Whitley is again 2nd-fastest in 1:50.62 from Pac-12s, while Alabama’s Anton McKee is the 3rd-fastest freshman ever, having swum 1:51.59 in his rookie year at Alabama. Kevin Cordes was 1:51.97 as a freshman in 2012.
20th – USC – This was USC’s lowest NCAA finish since they were 36th in 2008. The bright spot for the Trojans was senior Carsten Vissering, who was 2nd in the 100 breaststroke. He finished 47th, though, in the 200 breaststroke, which was 2nd-to-last, and continued a peculiar USC trend: they’ve had 6 All-America honors in the 100 breaststroke since their last All-America honor in the 200 breaststroke, which came from Ryosuke Imai in 2001.