After a scary start to the meet in College Station, with a tornado sighting near town delaying the meet for half-an-hour, the teams were able to hop in and swim the final Texas-Texas A&M in-conference dual meet without a working scoreboard or announcing system. It’s a good thing that they did, from the Longhorns’ perspective at least, as Texas put up some fantastic times that were surely a confidence-builder after getting drubbed by #1 Arizona last weekend.
Part of the difference between this week and last week was that Texas was suited-up in jammers this week (as compared to briefs against the Wildcats), which likely refocused them mentally. Also playing a role is the fact that Texas’ stars swam very limited schedules and focused on putting up the best-possible times. Jimmy Feigen, for example, swam only the 50 and 100 freestyles and no relays (which he swept in solid times of 19.71 and 43.72, respectively).
Cole Cragin, alternatively, swam only relays – including a 46.94 leadoff of the 400 medley (as compared to a tough 48.0 against Arizona).
Texas’ much-vaunted distance duo, who have received a lot of attention over the last week after a very complimentary feature about them was posted on the Texas website, was only marginally involved in this meet. Michael McBroom didn’t swim at all and Jackson Wilcox swam only the 200, where he took 3rd in 1:38.85. But the young Texas swimmers showed that the distance group goes beyond just the big two. Freshman Jacob Ritter won the 1000 in 9:05.54, which is his best time of the season. Nick D’Innocenzo, swimming a bit of an off-event, still was able to take the 500 free in 4:28 against a limited A&M distance group (with Omar Enriquez not swimming this season).
The Aggies struggled in a longer event schedule, as they focus much of their recruiting and training on sprint events. The highlights were wins in the 200 fly (Boris Loncaric – 1:46.95) and 200 breast (Amini Fonua – 2:02.50), but overall A&M struggled. For example, their two young sprinters John Dalton (44.87) and Kyle Troskot (45.02) both were slower than they were the same weekend last year in the 100 free for 3rd and 4th.
The single-best swim of the meet has to go to Texas junior Dax Hill in the 200 free. He topped that race in 1:34.03, which is more than four-and-a-half seconds faster than he was just a week ago against Arizona.
Overall, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Longhorns backed-off a touch in their training this week. Not so much of a “rest” per se, as a few more recovery workouts in between to build some confidence back. After the times posted in Arizona, Texas has definitely put their training in, and now it’s a matter of their stars lining up the last 6 weeks of workouts to hit their taper at NCAA’s; and their younger swimmers (like Ritter) resting for Big 12’s to try and earn a few bonus entries for Nationals.
Aggie fans, on the other hand, have to be getting nervous. This is a team that doesn’t rest mid-season, and thus depend entirely on Big 12’s (and ensuing last-chance meets) to earn NCAA qualifying times, and last year that didn’t work out as well as hoped. With their sprinters still looking a bit flat in this meet, the pressure is now on to recover in time for Big 12’s.