All-American Alvin Jiang announced on Instagram today that he was returning to the Texas Longhorns for a 5th season of NCAA competition, making him the first male Longhorn swimmer that we are aware of to announce that he’ll be using his extra season of eligibility.
After posting “One more year” and a picture of himself and teammate Andrew Koustik, (and a Joker-Dallas Cowboys mashup meme as part of the same post), Jiang confirmed with SwimSwam that he will be returning for another year of college competition at Texas.
In October 2020, the NCAA granted all winter sport athletes the option to use an extra year of eligibility following complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal circumstances, Division I student-athletes have a 5-year window during which they can use up their four seasons of eligibility. However, given the current situation with COVID-19, student-athletes of all class years have been offered an additional season of eligibility, regardless of where they are in their 5-year window. For a detailed breakdown on what the stakes are surrounding a 5th-year decision in 2021, click here.
The Longhorns won the 2021 Division I Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championship, marking their 5th title out of the last 6 championships. The Cal Bears have taken 2nd to the Longhorns each time the Longhorns won, while Texas took second to Cal in 2019. Jiang will join Texas diver Jordan Windle as key pieces of last year’s title run who are now returning for another round in Austin.
At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Jiang scored 31 points for the Longhorns. He completed the 100 fly/back double on Day 3, taking 4th in both events with sub-45 efforts. He also earned a point in the 200 fly, finishing 16th. Additionally, Jiang was a key piece of Texas’ relays. He split had the Longhorns’ fastest split (18.78) on their 6th-place 200 free relay, and he split a 44.05 fly leg on the 1st-place 400 medley relay and a 19.84 fly leg on the 5th-place 200 medley relay.
Texas has plenty of returning points even apart from last year’s seniors, but on paper it looks like they will be facing another tough battle with the Cal Bears, especially after most of the key players from Cal’s monster Class of 2021 announced they’ll be coming back for a 5th year. Jiang’s return will especially help the Longhorns fill in the relays. In between Jiang, Chris Staka, Jake Sannem, and Austin Katz, seniors accounted for 11 of the 20 Longhorn relays spots at last year’s NCAAs.
The Longhorns are deep in 200 freestylers, so it shouldn’t be a problem replacing Katz and Sannem on the 800 free relay. Freshman Anthony Grimm will probably slot into the backstroke slots on the medleys, and can fill in on at least the 200 free relay. Still, there wasn’t yet an obvious replacement for Jiang on the butterfly legs for the medley relays. Drew Kibler swam fly in the 400 medley relay prelims in 2019, although he’s primarily a freestyler, and Zac Van Zandt qualified for NCAAs with a 45.8 100 fly, but he ended up as 1 of 10 Texas qualifiers who had to be left home due to NCAA roster limits.
Jiang, a Texas native, swam at the University of North Carolina for his first two years of college before transferring to Texas for his junior year. He was an immediate success for the Longhorns, ripping a sub-44 fly split, one of the fastest ever, at the Longhorns fall invite, and was poised for a big 2020 NCAA Championships before they were canceled due to the then-burgeoning pandemic.