Key Losses: Caleb Weir [200 Free Relay prelims (2), 400 Medley Relay (3), 200 Medley Relay (2), 400 Free Relay (4), 128 points], Michael Hixon [1 Meter Diving (1), 3 Meter Diving (1), Platform Diving (7), 52 points]
Key Additions: Joseph Schooling (Fly-free), Austin Temple (Breast), Brett Ringgold (Sprint free), Jonathan Roberts (Middle distance free), Brett Ringgold (sprint free), Jared Butler (IM)
The Texas men proved themselves once again as one of the top programs in the country when they finished the year second overall behind Cal at the NCAA Championships in front of a home crowd in Austin. That marked the 5th time in 6 seasons that the Longhorns finished in the top 2 in the country in March.
This year, they might have a team that could rival California as they’ve picked up some key recruits and haven’t really lost many star swimmers other than freestyle sprinter Caleb Weir and NCAA Champion diver Michael Hixon.
One of the most important statistics to look at when analyzing the 2013-2014 Longhorns’ season is the fact that they were able to come second behind California at NCAAs without earning a single win in the pool (freshman diver Michael Hixon was the only athlete to win individual events winning both the 1MTR and 3MTR events).
That indicates depth, but this year there could be a few swimmers who could improve their placement just enough to knock Cal off of the number one spot and finish first overall.
POSSIBLE PLACING IMPROVEMENTS
Sprint freestyler John Murray had a great sophomore season last year finishing fifth and sixth in the 100 and 50 yard freestyles respectively.
As is the nature of the sprint free events, they’re usually fairly close meaning that Murray’s times weren’t that far off the winning time in either events. He posted a 19.11 in the 50 free and a 42.43 in the 100 free.
Both were off his best times that he coincidentally set in prelims of both events. His prelims time in the 100 free would have earned him the silver medal behind Lousville’s Joao De Lucca who won in 41.70.
Two key factors this year might let John Murray finally come home and touch the wall in first: the absence of Auburn’s Marcelo Chierighini and the absence of De Lucca. The two of them were seniors last year and finished first and second, being two of the greatest forces in sprint freestyle on the college scene. With them gone, there is definitely room for Murray to win at this year’s NCAAs.
Matt Ellis might also be one to watch this year in the 100 yard fly. This summer he earned himself a spot on the senior national team representing the United States at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships. With obvious improvement, he could be a huge threat.
Not only will Ellis’ improvement help him, but the 100m fly training group at Texas might be one of the best in college sports as it boasts Jack Conger and Joseph Schooling who can both final at the NCAAs in the 100 fly.
With the improved training environment with the addition of Schooling and the success of Ellis, the Longhorn swimmers could push themselves to new heights and improve their placing from last year.
Though the times didn’t officially get submitted into the database, the Texas men started off the year extremely well in their intrasquad meet, and have continued that through the team’s first couple of meets in a relatively light fall schedule.
Will Licon, who was 5th at NCAA’s last year in the 400 IM, ranks 3rd in the country so far in the 200 breast (1:57.11), first in the 200 IM (1:46.04), and 3rd in the 400 IM (3:50.49). There’s a long way to go this season, but that’s a fantastic start to the year for the sophomore.
Also impressing early is freshman Jonathan Roberts out of Dallas. While not grabbing the same headlines as recruits like Schooling and Conger over the last few years, Roberts was one of the best middle distance freestylers and backstrokers in the class of 2014, and he already leads the country in the 500 free with a 4:21.84 done at the Michigan quad.
Another freshman, Brett Ringgold, ranks 3rd among collegiate rookies in the 50 free this year with a 20.03 – behind only the rightfully-fawned-over Paul Powers and Caeleb Dressel. Overall, that puts Ringgold 8th in the country, and makes him Texas’ best sprinter in the early-going.
Texas doesn’t like to let on, but it’s not uncommon for the Longhorns to swim very well in October before settling into their heavier winter training and then tapering in February and March, but this year has been a hot start even by their standards.
The University of Texas Longhorns have done some great recruiting, filling some crucial gaps from last season that could land them even closer to Cal or even on top at this year’s NCAAs.
Most notably, the Longhorns picked up the #1 recruit: Joseph Schooling. Schooling has been on fire in the long course pool, and has even shown some extremely impressive results in short course yards.
Schooling represents Singapore internationally, although Singapore isn’t exactly known for swimming he’s no slouch on the global scene. This summer he picked up his first major international medal with silver in the 100m fly at the Commonwealth Games.
Schooling swam for the Bolles Sharks, a program that has produced many impressive college swimmers over the years including Ryan Murphy who now swims for Cal.
His versatility along with his fly expertise will give him multiple chances to score points for Texas at this year’s NCAA championships.
Schooling’s 45.52 personal best time in the 100 yard fly would have earned him a sixth place finish at the 2014 NCAA Championships, but with room for improvement he’s already at a level where he can get up and contend with some of the older swimmers – which he proved with a long course gold in the 100 fly at the Asian Games, and silver in the same event at the Commonwealth Games. He’ll have training partners Matt Ellis, Trip Cooper, Jack Conger, and Will Glass who all swim the 100 fly, which should get him into the swing of college swimming.
Other than the 100 fly, he’s not exactly a contender in too many events as he’s on the cusp of what would have made finals at last year’s championships. With continued improvement in yards this year under Eddie Reese however, he could dip into a range where he’s applicable for points in multiple events.
The Longhorns are off to a strong start already this season,
BREASTSTROKE GAP FILLED
Last year there was a definite absence of a dominant breaststroker on the Texas team, and that could be filled with the likes of Austin Temple.
Austin Temple comes from TIDE and had some great breaststroke swims at US Nationals this summer in Irvine. Temple’s best performance was a 10th place finish in the 50m breaststroke with a time of 28.19; he was a 28.06 in prelims.
In the 100m breaststroke, which was more competitive by all means, Temple was a 1:02.53 which granted him a 19th place finish. In the prelims Temple was faster touching the wall in 1:02.13.
His yards swims could be the difference on some of the men’s relays as his personal best of 52.87 in the 100 yard breaststroke would have made him the fastest Texas swimmer at NCAAs last year.
Imri Ganiel was a 52.79 on the 400 yard medley relay for Texas, however with a relay start it seems as though Temple would have been faster.
The relays will be extremely important for Texas if they want to go toe-to-toe with Cal as there are a lot of points to lose in the relay events.
Cal also dominates the relays, and proved that at last year’s NCAA Championships. This year however, Texas could have a few secret weapons that could boost them into a potential first place position.
In the 200 yard freestyle relay last year, Texas lost to Cal by less than three-tenths of a second. All members of that relay are still swimming at Texas, but Cal lost a key swimmers in Tony Cox.
Other than Michigan, Texas was the only team to not have a senior swimmer in the 200 yard freestyle relay meaning that while everyone else lost key swimmers, Texas is still rearin’ to go with the same four.
In the 400 yard free relay, Texas lost Caleb Weir who was a staple on their team. Somebody will need to step up and replace him if they want to improve their fourth place finish from last year.
The 800 free relay has some room for improvement after a 5th place finish at NCAA’s last year – good by most standards, but it was Texas’ lowest-placing relay last year. All four members of that team return, however, and with Schooling and Roberts in the mix fighting for those relay spots, even the returning four will have to be sharp to hold their spots. The Texas team needs someone to step it up on this relay and put them into the top three to help their chances at a team title, be that a newcomer or one of the returners.
The answer in the medley relays is going to be Austin Temple. With Temple swimming the breaststroke legs it’s going to allow John Murray, who swam the breaststroke split in the 200 medley relay last year, to swim the freestyle.
Although Murray’s split wasn’t slow by all means last year, with Temple focusing on the breaststroke it could mean great improvement.
In the longer medley relay, already Temple seems as though he’ll be able to swim a faster split than Imri Ganiel. Throw John Murray on the end of the relay to replace Caleb Weir and there’s a definite chance that Texas could take down Florida.
California will most likely still be out of reach for the Texas men in this relay, but with improved fly and breaststroke legs only time will tell.
This year, Texas is a very similar team to what they were last year in the sense that they haven’t really lost much other than the likes of sprinter Caleb Weir and diver Michael Hixon. With the similarities however come improvements to the team that could make the difference between a first and second place finish at NCAAs.
Although Hixon comes as a huge loss, with the recruiting that Texas has done there’s no doubt that a few freshman swimmers including Schooling will need to step up and fill the point-gap left behind from him.
With a very young team last year, there’s tons of room for improvement for this year. Even placing a few positions ahead could make the difference if enough swimmers do it considering the depth of the team. With a couple first place finishes very possible as well, Cal will have to hold on if they want to beat Texas.
It should be closer this year than last year at the NCAAs. If Texas can pull off a win, it’s going to be an extremely close one as no matter how much they’ve improved they’ll have to close a 49 point gap on Cal from the loss at NCAAs last year. If Texas had Hixon back, they’d be a no-brainer favorite to win NCAA’s, but Hixon isn’t back, which means another tight battle coming down to the last day of NCAA’s in a neutral pool in Iowa.