The South Carolina men opened the home portion of their 2016-2016 intercollegiate season with a downing of the Purdue Boilermakers. This was the first head-to-head dual meet matchup in the schools’ history, and South Carolina’s first win over a Big Ten opponent since 1986 (and only the 2nd in school history).
More immediately relevant is that the Gamecocks won the meet by a comfortable 38-point margin, including an exhibition of the last relay, to beat a team that placed 2 spots ahead of them at NCAA’s last season. While all but 3 of Purdue’s NCAA points last year were scored by divers, they still had a decent contingent of swimmers at the meet, including a relay.
South Carolina set a tone early in winning the 400 medley relay by two-and-a-half seconds. In a max-effort relay, where each of the four swimmers were better than they’d be the rest of the meet, the team of Bryce Kananowicz (50.64), Nils Wich-Glasen (53.61), Kevin Liethold (47.79), and Jonathan Boland (44.87) combined for a 3:16.91. That stands as the fifth-best time in the country so far, and third-best in the SEC, in that relay.
The breaststroke time from Wich-Glasen was a nice early surprise, and though he wasn’t as good in the individual later in the meet, he still took the win in a season-best 55.18
The day’s second event would be another SC win, and another step forward from Egyptian sophomore Akaram Mahmoud, who between his long course and now short course exploits is developing into a bona fide distance star.
He won the 1000 free in 9:03.03, which is the second-best time in the country this season as of times submitted Sunday afternoon. He was followed by freshman Cody Bekemeyer (9:10.64) in a dominant one-two finish, where they were more than 25 yards ahead of the field. Even without All-American Marwan El Kamash swimming at this meet, the Gamecocks showed the ever-increasing depth of their distance group.
That pair would go 1-2 again in the 500 free, with Mahmoud touching in 4:24.15 and Bekemeyer in 4:28.33.
Purdue fought back in the 3rd and 4th swimming events of the day, picking up wins in both the 200 free (1:40.88) and 100 back (49.83), the latter of which came in a 1-2-3 finish. Those are two events where South Carolina has some talent (Tom Peribonio in the 200 free and Bryce Kananowicz in the 100 back), but the Boilermakers grabbed some momentum to take big points in both events.
“South Carolina helped simulate a Big Ten opponent for us today and showed us some things we need to work on,” Purdue head coach and South Carolina native Dan Ross said. “They demonstrated why they ended up as a top-20 team last year at NCAAs. I’m grateful for the opportunity to compete at an SEC opponent. Now it’s back to work and we’re home next week for a dual with Miami (Ohio). Then it’s back to Big Ten action hosting Iowa for the Nov. 6 co-ed meet during homecoming weekend. Thanks you to the Purdue fans that supported us in Columbia today and joined me in lauding my mother Joyce, who drove up from Aiken, South Carolina.”
But South Carolina’s depth was too much for Purdue. For example, while Purdue won the 50 free thanks to a 20.60 from Austin Flager, they weren’t able to crack the top two in the 100 free (Kevin Liethold won that in 44.96). That depth from South Carolina has been built on the back of a handful of strong recruiting classes since Mark Bernardino came on board as an assistant. When combined with a pair of diving victories from Jordan Gotro against a Purdue diving group that didn’t include returning NCAA Champion and sophomore Steele Johnson, the Gamecocks put together a dominant formula.
South Carolina will race again next weekend, in Columbia, against SEC foes Alabama, while Purdue awaits a matchup next Friday against Miami (OH).
Full meet results available here.