Prior to the start of last week’s championship meets, we asked 5 big questions that we were hoping to have answered last week.
In a pleasant outcome, the majority of those questions, specifically the ones involving ‘rebounds,’ were to the positive for the programs involved. Great programs with new coaches on their staffs (or old coaches in new opinions) proved themselves great once again. The Big Ten battle was won surprisingly early by the Hoosiers, and Missouri ran pretty much the same way that Missouri always run at SECs, but with a big golden lining.
1) How Will the NC State Women Bounce Back?
Marvelously. It was a thriller of a meet, but the NC State women, trying to bounce back after a 2018 season plagued by injury, did so marvelously, and won their 4th ACC Conference Championship. The presence of new distance coach Mark Bernardino, formerly the head coach of runners-up Virginia during their heyday, was felt immediately: the NC State women went 1-2-3-5 in the mile on the final day of competition, after a 1-2-3-4 in the 400 IM a day earlier, to hammer down the title. The spring group looked good too, swapping out all 4 legs of the 200 free relay and breaking the ACC Record in the 200 free relay.
2) Have the Florida Women Really Rebounded this Quickly?
They have. The Gators didn’t have quite enough to fight past a Texas A&M 4-peat, but if you had said at the beginning of the season that the Gators would be in the hunt for the SEC title this quickly, nobody would have believed you. Now, a team that scored 0 points at the NCAA Championships 2 years ago is seeded to score 138.5 (from swimming) based on Swimulator this season. We need one more data point at NCAAs, but Jeff Poppell is in the running for coach-of-the-year if the team can keep their momentum rolling.
3) What Will the Missouri Men Do With Taper?
This one is the one that’s still a bit cloudy. Overall, the Tigers gave back points versus their seed, as they always do, focusing on cuts mid-season and then pushing straight-through the conference meet. But there were some brighter brights at this meet than they’ve had in the past. That’s especially in the form of Mikel Schreuders, who won the program’s first ever SEC title in men’s swimming when he took out the Meet Record in the 200 free twice, finishing in 1:31.27. So, overall, it seems like they had a similar approach to taper. Except for Mikel Schreuders? He had a whale of a meet: the best that any Tiger male swimmer has ever had at SECs.
4) Who Cares More About the Big Ten Title: Michigan or Indiana?
The Indiana women took a meet that, on paper, was going to be a barn-burner, and blew it open with a handful of huge scoring performances in a select few events. That includes the 200 breast (163 points), the 200 IM (130 points), and the 400 IM (118 points). No other teamscored more than 115 in any one individual event, let alone 3. Michigan’s team is still better-built for NCAAs, but the Hoosiers showed a lot more depth than we thought they had going into the meet. The men’s meet is built up to be similarly competitive this week, but after watching what the Indiana women did, it might be time to rethink that.
5) How Quickly Can the Florida Men Rebuild?
In the blink of an eye. They entered the meet as 184 point underdogs to Missouri (in swimming specifically), and wound up winning by almost 100. Their young distance group was a little rocky to start, but they caught on in a hurry: especially Robert Finke, who won the 400 IM and 1650 free. The latter came in a new SEC Meet Record and the #5 time in history at any level. The freshmen were great, Finke was great, but the real surprise story to emerge out of this meet was Maxime Rooney: the butterflier. Rooney came out of high school as one of the greatest middle distance recruits ever, but drops were hard to come by in those races. After missing a best time in the 200 free last year, though, new head coach Anthony Nesty moved him into the 100 and 200 fly at NCAAs instead, and he responded in a huge way. He won the SEC title in the 100 fly in 45.06, and was 2nd in the 200 fly in 1:40.87. His path forward now has a renewed energy, as a butterflier, similar to the move a swimmer like Jack Conger made in college. That’s going to be a fun storyline to follow over the next 2 years.