2019 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, March 27 – Saturday, March 30
- Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Austin, Texas
- Prelims 10 AM / Finals 6 PM (Central Time)
- Defending champion: Texas (4x) (2018 results)
- Psych Sheet
- Live Stream
- Live results
When Mark Theall finished 7th in the 500 free, he became the first-ever swimmer in Texas A&M history to score in that event. This season, he became the first Aggie swimmer under 4:20, and is now almost 8 seconds better than any other swimmer in school history in the event.
“What Mark has been able to do is pretty incredible,” said Texas A&M head coach Jay Holmes. “It’s something you just don’t see very often, especially in the 500 free. He was a good high school swimmer in the state of Texas, mainly in the fly and 200 free. He went to UNLV out of high school, but wanted to be closer to home and Texas A&M has been able to reap the benefit of that decision.”
Theall qualified for the 500 free A-final out of an early heat in 4:12.70, cutting four seconds off his lifetime best from SEC’s. However, the story doesn’t end there. All told, Theall has dropped more than 40 seconds in the 500 this season. Coming into the year with a previous best of 4:54.18 from the end of 2016, Theall had multiple “age group kid”-style drops this year. First, a strong 4:20.30 at the Art Adamson Invitational in November. Then, a 4:16.79 at SEC’s. Finally, today’s 4:12.70.
As a true freshman last year for UNLV, Theall was positioned more as a sprinter, competing in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles at the WAC Championships. While Theall’s times demonstrated big improvements from high school, dropping from a 21.0/45.0/1:39.1 to 20.1/43.6/1:36.5, respectively, he has clearly jumped a full level this year.
“The first time we put him in the 500 free was at the Art Adamson Invitational in the fall,” Holmes elaborated. “Traditionally, we have put people in some off races at that meet. He hadn’t swum it since high school and hardly ever even back then, so the seed time he had was 4:54. In the second heat of the 500 free prelims, he went 4:22 and Jason and I looked at each other like maybe we had something. He still didn’t really train for the 500 because we were in the middle of our training so he might have worked on the 500 once a week.
His success is just one representation of the tide turning for Texas A&M. Coming off a second place team finish at last year’s SEC Championships (their first finish in the top six), the Aggies have recruited better (Clayton Bobo and Shaine Casas) and become a more balanced team. Historically, the program has been much more focused on sprinting, with most of their NCAA point-scoring swims coming from short events. Prior to Theall’s huge swim this morning, Texas A&M has only had two swimmers every finish in the top 16 in the 200, 500, or 1650 freestyle, and never higher than 10th place. Between his swims today and his 1:31.97 split on last night’s 800 free relay, Theall’s confidence should be sky-high heading into the 200 freestyle tomorrow.