MSU Swimming & Diving Completes Dominating Performance for First MAC Championship
March 8, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. - The Missouri State men's swimming & diving team won the 2014 MAC Swimming & Diving Championship Saturday, completing a wire-to-wire run to its first-ever league title at Buffalo's Alumni Arena Natatorium.
The victory, which the Bears (833 points) claimed over second-place Eastern Michigan, is their 19th overall conference championship and first since joining the Mid-American Conference prior to the 2009-10 season.
The Eagles scored 682 points, followed by Buffalo (657 points), Miami (527), Southern Illinois (383), Ball State (160) and Evansville (153).
"I can't put into words just how proud of am of this group of men and the staff," MSU head coach Dave Collins, who was named the MAC Outstanding Swimming Coach of the Year, said. "This was a true team effort and was a long time coming."
The win also gave MSU a men's and women's sweep of conference championships this season for the first time since 2008 when the women won the Missouri Valley Conference meet and the men took the Sun Belt Conference crown. The women's team won its 11th title and seventh consecutive Feb. 15 in Carbondale, Ill.
The Bears won three championship finals Saturday to cement the win. Paul Le took the 200 backstroke (1:42.75), Uvis Kalnins the 100 freestyle (43.61) and Le, Vitalii Baryshok, Caleb Schuermannand Kalnins the 400-medley relay (2:56.97).
MAC Outstanding Swimmer of the Year honors went to Kalnins, while Garrett Nevelsnabbed MAC Outstanding Diver of the Year.
Miguel Davila opened the last finals session of the meet with a school-record in the 1,650 free, finishing second overall in an NCAA consideration time of 15:07.93. He broke Jared Roberts'mark of 15:16.67 set March 3, 2012.
Roberts was fourth in the race Saturday in a `B' cut of his own in 15:28.41, behind Schuermann, who third in 15:21.97. Naresh Naik rounded out the Bears' scorers in the final, placing sixth in 15:34.50.
"Being able to be a part of this team has been an amazing experience," said senior Roberts. "None of us will ever forget the feeling of jumping in the pool as champions after four years of hard work. All of the early mornings and hard workouts were worth it to be named the 2014 MAC champions."
Le set a UB pool record of 1:41.95 in the 200 back prelims in the morning session to qualify first for the event finals. Le and Yuri Garanito each posted `B' cuts in the evening with Garanito swimming 1:44.86 to place second. Jack Snow was sixth overall in 1:47.36.
"Passing through this whole cycle from my first year, being on the bottom with not enough people [to be competitive], to my senior year where we finally take that trophy home, it sure feels special," said co-captain Garanito. "It's the best day of my life and an amazing day to be a Bear."
Michal Bulak, the team's other co-captain, agreed.
"Nothing feels better than reaching our goal after dreaming about it for four years," Bulak said. "Hard work, dedication and mutual respect paid off. I could not think of a better way to finish my swimming career than with this group of people."
Kalnins set one of the six school records that he was part of in the meet in the 100 freestyle prelims in the morning with a `B' cut and pool-record 43.77 to earn the top spot for the finals. He then lowered that mark in winning the final.
Baryshok was the MSU only other swimmer in the A-final, placing sixth (44.59).
Springer was edged in the 200 breaststroke for the title but managed a `B' cut and school-record 1:58.22 in second place. Aaron Dennis went 2:01.83 for seventh, while Uldis Tazans won the B-final in 2:00.24, a time that would have gotten him fifth in the championship final.
Matthew Wilson turned in a second-place 1:47.66 consideration time in the 200 butterfly. Bulak was eighth in 1:50.52 in his final collegiate competition.
On the heels of his win in the 1-meter dive Thursday, Nevels took third in the 3-meter finals on Saturday with 327.75 points. Zach Wheeler finished eighth with 292.25, before Le, Baryshok, Schuerman and Kalnins closed the meet with their pool record 400-free relay.
"This group of guys dedicated everything we did this year to winning after losing by six points last year," senior Colin Hill said. "We managed to do something really special tonight and every guy on the team deserves every last bit of it. I couldn't think of a better way to end my career."
Selection of the NCAA championships field is slated for next week.