Lazzerini Sets Sights On NCAAs Fresh Off Penn State’s First-Ever Breaststroke Title

by Casey Charles 1

March 28th, 2024 Big Ten, College

With the graduation of Minnesota’s all-time great and conference record holder Max McHugh, the field in the men’s 100-yard breaststroke at the B1G Championships was tight and wide open with less than a second separating the top four swimmers in prelims. Surrounded by red and white caps and enveloped in the shouts of rival teams, Penn State sophomore Mariano Lazzerini, the sole Nittany Lion in the championship final of the 2024 B1G Championships, made his move from lane five (24.35), a half second behind the leader Indiana junior Finn Brooks (23.68) who was next to him in lane four. In addition to Brooks, Indiana boasted three additional championship finalists – senior Jassen Yep (Lane 3), senior Maxwell Reich (Lane 6), and junior Josh Matheny (Lane 1).

While Lazzerini, a Chilean National Team Member and future Olympic hopeful, had made the 2023 B1G Championship final in the 100 breaststroke, he slipped from a 6th place qualification time (52.49) to finish 8th (52.58), and he was the only swimmer to not break 25-seconds on the opening 50 (25.07). His season ended a day later as he finished 12th in the 200-yard breaststroke (1:55.90), missing NCAA qualification in both events.

Now, with a 50 to go, Lazzerini quickened his pace (1.17/cycle) while Brooks faded slightly (1.31/cycle). Every stroke – every lunge forward was an amalgamation of the improvements he had made under the tutelage of former National Junior Team coach Dan Flack whose arrival at University Park coincided with Lazzerini’s.

“This was the first time I have ever been in charge of coaching a college group of sprinters that also have a clear 2nd stroke,” commented Flack. In the newly formed group, an identity was forged out of curiosity, “We encouraged the students to be curious – we used all our unique resources – endless pool, 14-yard dive well, as well as the 25-yard, 25-meter, and 50-meter courses.”

“Curious students are easy to teach, and we had a ton of fun doing it. Mariano embraced all of these concepts, but more importantly, he had fun at practice – [the group] had fun at practice,” he continued. “He is easy to coach – he shows up, works hard, and laughs at the jokes. We clicked immediately”

As they turned for home, Lazzerini had made up the half-body length gap on Brooks and was virtually tied with a 25 to go. Brooks dominated the last pull-out, popping up with ¼ body length advantage, Lazzerini’s tempo was too much though, as he pulled away over the last 12.5 yards to secure the first B1G individual title for any male Nittany Lion in any breaststroke event ever.

His winning time of 51.08, a nearly 1.5-second improvement over last season, ranks Lazzerini as the 7th-best performance and 5th-best performer in B1G history. In his historic swim, Lazzerini held off arguably the premiere breaststroke group in the country (IU and Cal are the only teams with three individual NCAA qualifiers in the 100 breaststroke) with Yep placing 3rd (51.50), Matheny placing 4th (51.69), and Reich placing 5th (52.18).

With the cutline set at 51.89, the top four finishers will get the chance to battle it out once again in the 100 breastroke at the 2024 NCAA Championships this week in Indianapolis – Lazzarini (6th), Brooks (14th), Yep (17th), and Matheny (23rd).

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

1 Comment
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

An article about the 14th place finisher is an interesting choice….