Connecticut College’s Justin Finkel Named CSCAA Swimmer of the Year for Men’s DIII Swimming

2024 NCAA DIII Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships

Connecticut College junior Justin Finkel was named the CSCAA Swimmer of the Year for NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving. He is the first Connecticut College swimmer to receive the honor.

CSCAA honors are voted on by CSCAA-Member Division III head swimming coaches and head diving coaches who participate at the NCAA Championship meet.

Finkel won the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly and placed 4th in the 200 freestyle. He won both of his national titles in the final 50s of the races.

In the 500 free, Finkel was running 4th at the halfway mark, but slowly started to move up. Going into the final turn, Brandeis’ Samuel Dienstag led by over a second, but Finkel blasted a Finke-esque 24.54 (to Dienstag’s 26.27) to touch the wall first by 0.54-seconds.

In the 200 fly, defending champion and reigning national-record holder Frank Applebaum was the favorite, having lowered his own record last December. The CMS senior led at the 150, but once again Finkel used a strong final 50 to get to the wall first, lowering the national record in the process.

Finkel was the only Connecticut College athlete represented at the 2024 Championships.

Justin Finkel’s Swims:

  • 500 free – 4:21.32
  • 200 free – 1:37.29
  • 200 fly – 1:43.21 (NCAA DIII Record)

Emory coach Jon Howell was voted Men’s Coach of the Year for the second year in the row after leading the Eagles to their third-straight team title. Kenyon senior Israel Zavaleta was named Diver of the Year for the third year in a row.

Zavaleta finished his collegiate campaign undefeated at national-level competition, sweeping the 1-meter and 3-meter boards for the third year in a row, though he could use a fifth-year of eligibility at a different institution.

Shawn Austin from SUNY-Geneseo was named Men’s Diving Coach of the Year.

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TheAnchorLegPodcast
1 month ago

Congratulations to Justin on a fantastic season. Incredibly hardworking and deserving individual who has made great strides since coming to Connecticut College.

the olden days
1 month ago

I don’t think anyone would disagree that Maas was the best swimmer at the meet. That wasn’t a given and he clearly did the work in the water while juggling the first year of med school.

But it’s fitting that Division 3 coaches would choose a swimmer that was a product of the Division 3 world, finally getting over the hump and winning their first (and second, in record fashion) national championship. That swimmer traveled alone to the meet, and won races with incredible (memorable) comebacks. Two years ago, he didn’t even final at the meet. His improvement curve happened within the 19 week restriction on DIII programs.

Derek Maas had a great career at the highest level of… Read more »

THEO
Reply to  the olden days
1 month ago

I respect this opinion and certainly agree that Finkels story is different and probably more inspiring to other D3 swimmers. but ultimately I think if you’re going to hand out a single “Swimmer of the Meet” award it should be based primarily on who won the most events and swam the fastest. There’s a reason that conferences and teams have a separate award for “most improved.”

the olden days
Reply to  THEO
1 month ago

I don’t disagree. I think most conferences have statistical criteria to assign the awards and that is certainly a cleaner way of doing it. I’d be ok with that too, and would be ok with Maas winning it in either format. And to be clear, I wouldn’t have been upset it Maas had won. I just think the “he got robbed” noise misses the subjectivity of a award determined by a vote.

PFA
Reply to  the olden days
1 month ago

What Andrew Wilson did for D3 swimming was set the bar for others. D. Maas is the one who’s pushing others towards those standards

THEO
1 month ago

This is so embarrassing and petty of the people who voted this.

No offense to Finkel, obviously, but it’s Maas all the way.

CAS
1 month ago

Derek Maas was snubbed. He was easily the best swimmer in D3 all year

Swimmer
Reply to  CAS
1 month ago

He lost it with his foot clap celebration

SwimMaxxing
Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

What a stupid argument. If you don’t like it, don’t let him win. Also, even if you truly feel that way, the award is “Swimmer of the Year” not “Most Gracious Swimmer”

MaasMxxing
Reply to  SwimMaxxing
1 month ago

It’s a coach’s vote. Do you think stubborn D3 coaches who see that behavior would award it? Was Maas the best swimmer of the meet? No doubt, he hard carried 4 relays and dropped 60 individual points, as well as a hefty new 200 IM record. But I don’t get to vote, I just get to speculate in Swimswam comments.

Admin
Reply to  MaasMxxing
1 month ago

If coaches actually didn’t vote him as the best swimmer because they’re mad that he celebrated after winning a national title, then I don’t ever want to see another D3 swimmer or coach in my inbox yelling at me because “D3 swimming is just as important as D1.”

the olden days
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

They didn’t. Finkel has gone from qualifier to 2xChamp, record holder, and absolute dog at the end of races and he’s doing it one a team that didn’t have any other qualifiers (although Connecticut has been solid for a long time). He’s a great representation of everything D3 coaches look for. Fact is, they’ll never get the best recruits and the 19 week restriction is just that, a restriction.

Also, when I was coaching D3, SwimSwam would promptly post content that we reached out about to put on their radar. Took a little effort from us, but you all were totally supportive.

Maybe that policy has changed, but I for one appreciate the D3 content.

oxyswim
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Is that actually what this was about? Not coaches being annoyed that a D1 All-American decided to pop into D3 and disrupt their bubble for a year? It’s dumb that someone who also set a record but won 3 events and was a key part of 3 top 3 relays lost to someone who got 4th in an event.

I know I followed D3 swimming more this than I have in a while and that was because of Maas. I saw more results from other teams and looked at how they were going to stack up as well.

swim
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Celebrating like that when you didn’t break a record or go a best time just doesn’t come off as classy. In general people respect Finkel more because he is a product of D3 swimming. D3 culture is different from D1

SwimMaxxing
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Look Braden, I think you’re right to be angry at this, but holy false dichotomy. Let me get this straight: either coaches unjustly penalized a swimmer for celebrating, which invalidates any claim of D3 swimming’s importance, or D3 swimming is as important as D1, and coaches did not act out of spite?

C’mon man, ur better than this.

D1swammer
Reply to  SwimMaxxing
1 month ago

This kind condescending response is the hallmark of D3 swimming and why people don’t take it as seriously as D1. It’s also the same attitude that led coaches to vote against Derek because “we don’t do that in D3.”

I don’t know you SwimMaxxing, but “c’mon, ur better than this.”

SwimMaxxing
Reply to  D1swammer
1 month ago

Look man I agree with you. I think that if we want better coverage of DIII swimming we should probably stop acting like it is fundamentally different than DI. Doesn’t change the fact that the original argument was a logical fallacy. Both things can be true that 1) Derek deserved to win the award and the coaches need to get over themselves and 2) DIII swimming matters.

Ice Golem
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Teams at the high end of D3 would run a train on most D1 mid major teams

the olden days
Reply to  SwimMaxxing
1 month ago

Seems like the coaches who voted on it took your advice on that.

Anon
Reply to  CAS
1 month ago

While I agree. I am happy swim swam kept the story about Justin. Seems like a great swimmer who did really well this weekend.

I have heard great thing about Maas (despite having one cheer that rubbed people the wrong way). He probably deserved this award more based on his performance but I think we should all be happy for Justin and leave it at that.