Swimmers second to host UVA at regular-season-ending Wet Wahoo
Liberty University’s men’s swim team concluded its regular season with a second-place showing to host University of Virginia in Sunday’s Wet Wahoo Invitational at the UVA Aquatic & Fitness Center.
Liberty accumulated 675.5 points to finished second to the Cavaliers (725) in both the men’s and combined scores, with 15 programs competing. Among the 12 men’s teams, Liberty separated itself from North Carolina State (279), Virginia Tech (169.83), West Virginia (123.5), and UNC Chapel Hill (107.5) among others.
The Cavaliers feature more than 100 men’s and women’s swimmers in their College Club Swimming (CCS) program, and won primarily based on their depth, not totally on talent.
“Virginia was great competition,” said Flames Head Coach Heath Grishaw, who is hoping the Flames can improve on their fifth-place finish from last season at the March 31-April 2 CCS Nationals National Championships at Ohio State. “They have a great team and are going to be in the top 10 at nationals. I was happy with how well we did. We swam well. We saw some people get their lifetime best times, or right off them, in speedos — not suited, not shaved, or tapered — which is exciting. That makes us confident that we are in the right place, four and a half weeks before nationals.”
He said most of his swimmers will save sporting their technical suits, which give them added buoyancy in the water, until nationals.
“This was our last regular-season meet, so we kind of want to measure how they would do without them (tech suits), which give you that extra boost,” he said. “You don’t want to use them all of the time because tech suits are expensive, and they wear out.”
The Flames’ 200-yard medley relay team of senior Matthew Davidson and freshmen Dillon Delaney, Jonah Rhodenizer, and Maximus Phillipps won in 1:36.19. Liberty’s 200 free relay team of freshman Whittman Brown, junior Johnathan Tonnell, Phillipps, and Davidson finished runner-up, just 0.31 seconds behind UVA, in 1:28.06, while its B team of sophomore Trent Kolter, Delaney, Rhodenizer, and senior Zach Mallory came in fifth in 1:30.11.
The Flames had a 1-2-3 sweep in the 200 freestyle, paced by Brown’s 1:45.93 and followed closely by Delaney (1:47.35) as well as freshmen Jimmy Blackstone (1:47.75) and Ben Bizeau (fifth in 1:50.21). Mallory won the 500 free in 4:54.90, followed by Bizeau (second in 5:06.74).
Sophomore Tyler Suchyj led a 1-2-4-5 finish in the 200 individual medley (IM) in 2:01.91 followed by Brown (2:02.42), Colin Wood (fourth, 2:06.95), and Aaron Sandoval (fifth, 2:06.95)
Davison (47.17) and Brown (48.08) finished first and third, respectively, in the 100 free, followed by Phillipps (seventh, 49.23) and Kolter (eighth, 49.52).
Delaney won the 50 breast in 26.69 with Suchyj seventh in 27.97. Kolter placed second in the 100 butterfly in 53.07, a split-second behind UVA’s Chris Chao (53.00), and Blackstone (53.98), Rhodenizer (54.81), and sophomore Jonah Black came in fifth, seventh, and eighth, respectively.
Phillips (21.67) and Davidson (21.79) came in third and fifth, respectively, in the 50 free.
The Flames had a 4-5-6 finish by freshman Walker Orbke (57.07), Tonnell (57.28), and senior Wade Lawrence (58.45) in the 100 back.
Delaney also finished runner-up in the 100 breast in 59.36 with Suchyj seventh in 1:03.27. Tonnell (25.55) and Orbke (25.63) finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 50 back, and Rhodenizer came in seventh in the 50 fly in 24.09.
Complete results are available online.
The Flames qualified 26 of their 29 swimmers for nationals, including Davidson, a three-time defending national champion who could swim as many as 16 races over three days if he can advance to the finals in all six of his events.
“This year will be the first time we’ll have multiple people in every event,” Davidson said, noting that Liberty will enter just one team in all five relays, the 800, 400, and 200 free and 400 and 200 medley.
“Those are double the points of an individual race, with first place for a relay worth 50 points,” Grishaw said. “Hopefully, our quality will shine a little brighter than a lot of the other teams there … if we time it right so that guys are well rested and they’re not sick and it all clicks for a successful week. Our practices will be all power and speed until it’s time for nationals, then we’ll taper them off.”
He said once the Flames arrive at nationals, they will each need to focus on swimming their races and not worry about the competition.
“When we step on the block, our guys need to make sure that they remember what they’ve worked for and worked on,” Grishaw said, noting that the freshman, especially, will have to overcome nerves. “Being young and still learning, being a student of the sport, you don’t want to get caught up in the race and not execute the race. Hopefully, everything we work on from this point out will help them. The guys are excited to see what they’re going to do and what we’re going to do as a team.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer