The Texas men kicked off their 2014-2015 season on Friday in Austin with their annual orange-white meet, and if the defending NCAA Champions Cal got in the first punch of the new season, #2 Texas got in a fantastic counter-punch.
In the team scoring, Orange got off to a huge lead, winning the first 5 events, and wound up beating white by a narrow 5 points, but it wasn’t the scoring that will resonate nationally: it’s the results.
Off-the-bat, Kip Darmody swam a 46.92 in the 100 back, which makes him the first swimmer in the country under 47 seconds this year. His sophomore teammate Jack Conger was 2nd in 47.32, and freshman Brett Ringgold was 3rd in 47.35. While a very different format than Cal had, all three of those times are faster than defending NCAA Champ Ryan Murphy (47.50) went a week ago.
That was the first of three swims for Ringgold, who was competing in his first meet as a college athlete. He also swam a 19.81 in the 50 free to beat John Murray (20.00), Matt Ellis (20.04), and Jack Conger (20.05) in a very tight finish, and swam a 43.87 to place 2nd to Clay Youngquist (43.85) in the 100 free.
Joseph Schooling wasn’t at this meet while returning from representing his native Singapore at the Asian Games, but Ringgold still did a phenomenal job representing for a smallish, but extremely talented, freshman class. No swimmer going back as far as the official USA Swimming/NCAA database goes (the 2007-2008 season), no freshman has been close to that fast before at least their mid-season invite.
Texas sophomore Will Licon won all three of his swims on Friday. He started with a 53.88 in the 100 breast, then was a 1:46.44 in the 200 IM and a 1:57.99 in the 200 breaststroke. In the first of those races, he beat Imri Ganiel (55.00) and Austin Temple (55.20) in a stroke that has gone from a program weakness to a program strength in two years of good recruiting.
The U.S. National Teamer and Pan Pacs team member Matt Ellis started his season off well with a 46.71. There will be a lot more expectations on Ellis this season with more international credentials behind him, and it seems as though his slight shift of focus more onto the 100 fly, and less on the 50 and 100 free, continues here in September. He was 3rd in the 50 free and 4th in the 100 free.
Every time a result flashed on the board, it was another shock in the context of being a season-opening meet. Sam Lewis won the 1000 free in 9:01.18, which would’ve been 5th-best in the country last season at any meet. Freshman Jonathan Roberts wasn’t far behind in 9:05.20 Youngquist picked up his first of two wins with a 1:35.09 in the 200 free. Conger won the 200 back in 1:42.35 to start the season.
There was only one relay swum, and even with a split squad those times were almost flabbergasting. The white relay swam a 2:55.00, with all four swimmers (unnamed in official results) going under 44 seconds, and then the orange relay added a 2:57.63 on top of that.
The fans of every other team in the country, and probably even most in Austin, will be tempering the results by pointing out that nobody ever won a national championship in the first meet of the season. As much as can be proved in a season-opener, though, Texas did prove in their season-opener. The transfer of NCAA Champion diver Michael Hixon to Indiana in the off season hurt the Longhorns’ chances at the NCAA title, but the Longhorns are still very much in the hunt for the title in 2015.
Full meet results, in PDF, available here.