2017 NAIA National Championship Fan Guide: Men’s Meet

 2017 NAIA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – MEN’S MEET

The 2017 NAIA Men’s Swimming and Diving National Championship will get underway on Wednesday, March 1st at the Columbus Aquatic Center, in Columbus, Georgia. The NAIA, which governs the athletic programs of smaller colleges and universities, will bring together over 200 athletes from 29 schools to compete in their national championship meet.

After last year’s 115-point win over the Savannah College of Art and Design, the NAIA title is Olivet Nazarene’s to defend, but SCAD isn’t likely to go down without a fight. Newcomer Keiser University has had strong performances in its inaugural season, under the leadership of coach Adam Epstein, and those swimmers will also add some variety to the podium and will spice up the two-team competition from last year. The result will be a spirited battle among the three, with major performances from colleges like Lindenwood-Belleville, West Virginia Tech, the Cumberlands, and Wayland Baptist.

This time around, the national championship schedule has been shaken up a bit; the NAIA National Championship now nearly mirrors the NCAA national championship format with the 800 free relays alone on day one.

It’s also worth noting that seed times are a little tricky here, as many teams haven’t yet had the chance to swim fully tapered, unlike NCAA swimmers going into their championships, most of whom have swam a rested conference about a month before.

Stars

Diving

Just a handful of teams have divers; Asbury, Biola, ONU, Cumberlands, and Union will have a leg up on the competition at the conclusion of diving. It’s especially important to note that out of three major competitors in the team competition, only Olivet Nazarene has diving. Last year Tyler Timmer scored 32 points in diving for the team, which served a big portion of Olivet Nazarene’s 115-point victory. This season, the sophomore be joined by freshman Matas Skultinas for ONU, but Biola senior Shane Brinson will fight to defend his 1-meter and 3-meter titles.

Freestyle

Last year, 20.67 was fast enough to win the 50 freestyle national championship, but this time around, four swimmers already come in seeded under that mark. SCAD senior Joel Ax comes in with the top qualifying time (20.24), with Wayland Baptist’s 2016 runner-up Josiah Morales close on his heels. Keiser sophomore Andrei Stukov (20.57) and Thomas University’s Perry Lindo (20.66) will also fight for a spot in the top three. The 100 will see a battle among similar players, but Ax comes in seeded a second and a half ahead of the competition with 44.24. Stukov is the second seed with 45.67, and last year’s runner-up Daniil Kuzmin of Olivet Nazarene is the third see with 45.75. Last season, Kuzmin’s silver-winning swim was 45.36. 

Defending champion Ax is likely going to have to drop one of the sprint events events (he is also seeded first in the 200 fly), and he is the top entry in the 200 free (1:36.29). He will fight to take down his own national record, a 1:34.90 set last year. The 200 field is packed with new talent, including Ax’s freshman teammate (and fellow Joel) Joel Thatcher (1:39.68), Morningside freshman Connor Bjellum (1:39.13), Keiser freshman Justin Lewis (1:42.00), and Lindenwood-Belleville freshman Matija Luka Rafaj (1:42.07). Bjellum will be attempting to win Morningside its first-ever top-three finish in school history. 

Thatcher (4:28.05), Rafaj (4:34.18), and West Virginia Tech’s Manuel Laguna Gomez (3:34.78) will lead another freshman-packed 500 final. 

Meanwhile, freshman Xavier Bordes Adell (15:40.80) will lead another young field against Laguna Gomez (15:57.18) and Thatcher (15:57.90).

Backstroke

Keiser holds the first and third seeds in the 100 back, with junior Danny Hartley holding the top seed as the only swimmer coming into the meet under 50 (49.75). His freshman teammate Nick Oh sits third with 50.95, very close to Olivet Nazarene freshman Magnus Poulsen (50.93). St. Andrews senior Georgi Krastev (50.96) is the first familiar face in the field, after finishing fifth overall last year.

The 200 back will be all Hartley, who comes into the event with a 1:46.02, which would have been fast enough to win the event last year. Olivet Nazarene freshman Magnus Andersen (1:51.11) will fight Asbury freshman Clay Bisher (1:51.21) and last year’s fourth-place finisher Arthur Bertrand of West Virginia Tech (1:52.09) for the second-place finish, along with Lindsey Wilson’s 2016 ‘B’ finalist Clemens Patzold (1:52.10)

Breaststroke

A pair of freshmen, Lukas Macek of Keiser (55.83) and West Virginia Tech’s Paulo Ignacio Jr. (56.34) lead the psych sheet in the 100 breast, but, 2016 runner-up and Wayland Baptist senior Bjoern Globke (56.70) lurks in the field. SCAD junior Anton Arvidsson (56.47), who came up fourth last year, and Jacob Smith of the Cumberlands (56.63) are also in the group. 

Macek (2:01.66) and last year’s fourth-place finisher Smith (2:03.72) come into the 200 breast at the top, along with Ignacio (2:04.97) and West Virginia Tech’s fifth-place finisher Manuel Serrano Laguna (2:05.72). Also lurking in the field (seeded eleventh) is the 2016 third-place finisher Globke, who went 2:02.35 last year. 

Butterfly

Five swimmers come into the 100 fly under 50, led by last season’s fifth-place finisher Josiah Morales out of Wayland Baptist (48.95). Keiser junior  Danny Hartley is also in the mix (49.07), along with Olivet Nazarene Magnus-pair, both out of Denmark Magnus Andersen (49.25) and Magnus Poulsen (49.51). Last season’s third-place finisher Igor Dozortsev of Cumberlands will also fight for the title (49.46).

SCAD senior Joel Ax (1:48.71) sits atop the 200 fly field (though he is over-entered and will have to drop an event), with Dozortzev (1:49.63) and Poulsen (1:49.79) on his tail. 

Individual Medley

The 200 IM is one of the few events in which last year’s champion returns to fight for the championship. Olivet Nazarene sophomore Daniil Kuzmin took the title last year as the only swimmer under 1:51, with 1:48.68. This time around, he will have to hold off Lindenwood-Belleville’s Nico Tscherner (1:53.01), Keiser freshman Lukas Macek (1:53.27), West Virginia Tech’s 2016 ‘A’ finalist Manuel Serrano Laguna (1:53.41), Olivet Nazarene freshman Magnus Andersen (1:53.66), and Lindsey Wilson’s 2016 ‘B’ finalist Clemens Patzold (1:53.84). 

Kuzmin will be trying to defend his title in the 400 IM, which he won last year in 3:55.53. He will be battling freshmen Joel Thatcher of SCAD (4:00.49) and Tscherner (4:01.28). 

4-DAY SCHEDULE

Wednesday:
800 Freestyle Relay

Thursday:
200 Free Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
400 Medley Relay
1 Meter Diving (Women)

Friday:
200 Medley Relay
400 IM
100 Fly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
3-Meter Diving (Women & Men)

Saturday:
1-Meter Diving
1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
1 Meter Diving (Men)
400 Freestyle Relay

“The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.

In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character building aspects of sport. Through Champions of Character, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values.”

 

0
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

Read More »