Davidson’s three gold medals, five top-10 relays lift men’s swimmers to fifth-place nationals finish
Junior Matthew Davidson won the first three gold medals in program history to help Liberty University’s fifth-year men’s swimming team place fifth out of 119 teams at the College Club Swimming (CCS) National Championships, Friday through Sunday in the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center.
“I am really proud of both our older leadership group and our underclassmen,” Flames fourth-year Head Coach Heath Grishaw said. “Out of 2,001 athletes there, only 18 were from Liberty and we were able to accomplish that (fifth-place) feat. It was really cool to see how the guys just showed up and were racing really well in Sunday’s finals, winning their heats of B and A finals.”
Purdue won the men’s team competition with 574 points, followed by Georgia (512), Michigan State (465), and Florida State (394). Liberty (374) followed 20 points back in fifth place, 20 points ahead of sixth-place Georgia Tech (354).
“In the past, it was a goal to always keep up with (the Yellow Jackets), so now that we were able to pass them in scoring, it’s exciting,” Grishaw said, noting that Georgia Tech did an excellent job of hosting the meet. “The guys were excited that such high-level talent was there at nationals, which was much quicker than people thought it would be. They didn’t want anything handed to them. They wanted to fight for it.”
Virginia, which had beaten the Flames in a regular-season meet due to its depth with more than 50 swimmers, landed in seventh.
Liberty’s previous best nationals team finish was 13th place at the CCS Swimming & Diving Championships in 2018, also in Atlanta, when divers accounted for 42 of its 152 team points.
Davidson won the 50-yard backstroke in a new personal record time of 22.70 seconds, the 100 back in 48.91, and the 100 freestyle in 44.94. He added a bronze medal in the 50 free in 20.29, one-tenth of a second out of first place, to account for 98 points individually, second most among all men’s swimmers.
He also swam on all five of the Flames’ relays, following senior Robert Boehme, junior Zach Mallory, and freshman Trent Kolter to anchor the second-place 800 free relay — which broke the existing meet record in 6 minutes, 52.01 seconds but finished second to overall team champion Purdue.
Boehme, Kolter, and sophomore Johnathan Tonnell set up Davidson’s anchor leg in the 200 free relay, which placed fourth in 1:24.19. Liberty’s 200 medley placed seventh, its 400 medley relay finished eighth, and its 400 free relay came in ninth.
“Our relays showed up big-time,” Grishaw said. “Our 200 free relay was not even supposed to score, but was seeded seventh after prelims going into finals and ended up placing fourth, which was unbelievable.”
Kolter also competed on all five relays and fared well individually, finishing fifth in the 200 butterfly in 1:54.68, seventh in the 200 free in 1:42.89, and 11th in the 100 fly in 50.82.
Boehme placed seventh in the 500 free in 4:46.09, eighth in the 1,000 free in 10:01.30, and 11th in both the 200 IM (1:55.46) and 400 IM (4:22.60). Sophomore Tyler Suchjy, a spring semester transfer from UMBC, finished eighth in the 400 IM (4:16.07), 14th in the 1,000 free (10:11.66), and 20th in the 200 breaststroke (2:10.78). His younger brother, junior Joseph Boehme, placed 19th in the 1,000 free in 10:23.37.
Though he didn’t place in the top 20, freshman Carson Chestnut, dropped 45 seconds from the start of the season to the end in the 500 free.
“That is really impressive,” Grishaw said. “We are seeing massive time drops, big improvements in everybody, and success fall from the top all the way to the bottom. We just couldn’t ask for more.”
Complete results are available online.
The Flames will only graduate Robert Boehme from this year’s roster in May and Grishaw and Assistant Coach Ben Klipp have 14 new recruits lined up for the fall semester.
“We’re going to have a much larger team show up for next year’s nationals and we’ll see more scoring, and hopefully have more national champions,” Grishaw said. “We will have a lot of seasoned swimmers next year, and now that they have a national (championships) under their belt, they can help us prepare the incoming class better.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Olivia Bergen/Club Sports Video & Media Coordinator