The University of Texas beat the Texas A&M 141-100 on Friday in College Station, but the Aggies definitely proved that they could compete with the powerhouse Longhorns. If a few touches had gone the other way, and without a DQ’ed relay, this meet could have been much closer. This dual meet, which limited each swimmer to 3 events, was a great test of each team’s depth, as it took more than a few top swimmers to fill out the scoring lineup.
In the 200 medley relay, the Texas ‘A’ squad of Cole Cragin, Eric Friedland, Hill Taylor, and Ricky Berens just outtouched the A&M A 1:29.21-1:29.27.
The 1650 free, which featured a highly anticipated matchup between A&M freshman Omar Enriquez and Texas sophmore Jackson Wilcox, looked as though it was going to live up to its billing early. Through the first 450 yards, the two swimmers were almost dead even. But then in the 10th 50, Wilcox made his move, and opened up nearly a full second lead. From there, Wilcox slowly pulled away, end ended up winning the race in 15:10.99, which was nearly 5 full seconds off of his previous season best. Enriquez, despite his second place finish, broke his second school record of the season by finishing in 15:19.67. This bettered his collegiate-career best time by almost 14 full seconds. Both swimmers look to be very fit heading into championship season, and both will contend for scoring spots at the NCAA championships.
In the 200 free, A&M’s Balazs Malkany opened up over a full second lead on the field after the first 100, but Olympian Dave Walters lurked behind him. Walters made a huge move in the third 50, and finally overtook Malkany in the final lap to win in 1:38.06. Malkany’s time was 1:38.77, which was good for second place.
In the 100 breaststroke, 2008 Olympian Scott Spann, who is beginning to regain form after two surgeries to fix a bone chip imbedded in his patella tendon, won in 55.00. Spann was followed by a trio of Aggies, led by Nathan Lavery who turned in a season best of 55.91.
The last race of the meet, the 200 free relay, was also the most exciting. Texas’ Walters and A&M’s Casey Strange turned in identical 20.39 splits to lead off the race. In the second leg, Texas’ Scott Jostes pulled ahead of A&M’s Malkany 20.37-20.63. A&M snatched the lead back when Jason Bergstrom swam a 20.20 to Cole Cragin’s 20.64 in the third leg, and then A&M Freshman John Dalton (19.83) held off a late charge from Texas’ Ben Vanroekel (19.71) on the anchor leg to touch the wall first. A&M’s final time was 1:21.05, and Texas’ was 1:21.11. As the 600+ fans filed out of the A&M Student Rec Center they thought that A&M had snatched away a key relay win. It wasn’t until the official results were posted online that the fans realized that A&M’s A relay had been DQ’ed by a .03 early takeoff by Bergstrom. This did not diminish the excitement of knowing that the Aggies were capable of beating Texas in the relay. In fairness to the Longhorns, though, they decided to have sophmore Jimmy Feigen swim the 50 and 100 freestyles individually in lieu of the last relay. Feigen has the fastest 50 freestyle time in the conference this season, and won both races easily in this meet.
A&M diver Grant Nel gave his teammates a big boost when he swept both diving events. Texas’ top diver, Drew Livingston, was absent from the meet to participate in the U.S. Winter Diving Nationals and World Cup trials. Nel, an Australian, competed in his country’s open diving championship (along with A&M women’s diver Jaele Patrick) 2 weeks ago.
Texas A&M’s top swimmers are already swimming best times 2 weeks out from the Big 12 Championships meet in this same pool, whereas Texas has yet to really feel the effects of their taper. Sets up to be a very exciting meet.