Kalnins, Le Set for NCAA Swimming & Diving Championship
Paul Le and Uvis Kalnins
Paul Le and Uvis Kalnins

March 26, 2014

NCAA Championships Central | Live Results | Le Video Interview | Kalnins Video Interview | Collins Video Interview  | ESPN3 (Day 2 Finals) | ESPN3 (Day 3 Finals) | Day 1 Prelims Live Video | Day 1 Finals Live Video | Day 2 Prelims Live Video | Day 3 Prelims Live Video

Missouri State Bears at 2014 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships
Thursday-Saturday, March 27-29, 2014
Start Times: 11 a.m./7 p.m. daily
Location: Austin, Texas
Site: Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center
Twitter: @MoStateSwim | @MissouriStBears
AUSTIN, Texas –
Missouri State junior Paul Le and sophomore Uvis Kalnins are set to compete in the 2014 NCAA Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships Thursday-Saturday at Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.

Preliminary heats begin at 11 a.m., each day with finals to follow at 7 p.m.

Le and Kalnins will first compete in the 200-yard individual medley slated for Thursday. Kalnins will swim the 400 IM Friday, while Le gets in the water for a second time for the 100 backstroke. The Bears finish off their championship experience Saturday with Le swimming the 200 back and Kalnins the 100 freestyle.

Bears Get Two into Field for First Time
With both Le and Kalnins qualifying for NCAA championships, it marks the first time in school history that two Missouri State will send multiple swimmers to the championship meet in the same season.

Missouri State NCAA Division I Championships History
Le and Kalnins’ selections to the NCAA Division I championships run Missouri State’s all-time Division I total to eight national qualifiers since joining the DI ranks in 1982-83.

Le, a native of Moore, Okla., is the Bears’ first two-time NCAA qualifier and returns to the championships looking to earn All-American status for the second time after placing 15th overall in the 200-yard backstroke a year ago.

Le also finished 33rd in the 100 back (47.57) and 45th in the 200-individual medley last at last season’s meet in Indianapolis.

Kalnins, of Valmiera, Latvia, makes his first appearance at the NCAA meet and is believed to be the first Latvian ever to make the field. He’s no stranger to big meets, though, having swam in the 2012 Olympics in London and 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona the last two summers.

Prior to Le’s NCAA appearance last year, the Bears’ most recent NCAA qualifier was Matt Beasley in 2005. Beasley was 36th in both the 200 free and 200 IM and was the first MSU swimmer to qualify for NCAA championships in two events.

The rest of the list includes Josh Wegrzyn (2002), Eric Christiansen (1990), Mike Ablard (1985) and Don Fearon (1984).

Wegrzyn was 20th overall in the 100 back and 43rd in the 100 free in 2002. His time in the 100 back just missed giving the Bears points in the national meet for what would have been the first time in school history.

Christiansen placed 31st in one-meter diving (394.30 points) and 33rd in three-meter (354.50).

Fearon competed in both one- and three-meter diving at the 1984 championships in Milwaukee.

Ablard competed in the prelims in the 100 breaststroke in the 1985 championships.

MSU NCAA Qualifiers’ Advice to Le, Kalnins
Missouri State reached out to MSU NCAA qualifiers Matt Beasley (2005) and Josh Wegrzyn (2002) for advice for both Le and Kalnins leading up to the meet. Below are some of their comments:

“It is such an honor to be selected for such an incredible meet. It is amazing to see not only one qualifier but also two from MSU headed to the NCAA’s biggest meet.

“Trust in the hard work that you have done leading you up to the meet. You belong on the biggest stage. Swim for yourself but also for your teammates and coaches that have helped you get to this point this season. Take it one race at a time, swim in your lane and don’t worry about who may be in your heat. Trust in what your coaches have done to prepare you this week.  

“It is OK to appreciate the fast swimming that will be going on around you. I remember in 2005 it was the first season someone went sub-19 and I remember Freddie Bousquet going 1:31.2 in the 200 free. See what the guys around you are doing well and learn from it. But at the same time, be focused on what you are there to do. 

“It meant a lot being only the second (after my boy Wegrzyn) swimmer from SMS/MSU to be representing our university. It feels good being able to represent a school other than your power schools at the biggest meet. Show the big boys that we are just as fast at MSU.”

“I think the most important thing for Paul and Uvis to remember is that they've worked very hard to get to this meet. They shouldn't be intimidated by all the big programs with their large support staffs and banners. They need to remember that they are at the NCAA meet to compete to the best of their ability like everyone else, and they must channel the ‘big-meet’ energy just like all the other guys on the pool deck. They belong at this meet and must believe that they are good enough to score in every event they swim.

“The meet was pretty overwhelming for me in the moment, but I took a lot away from competing at the fastest meet in the world. The confidence I gained from going head-to-head with the big dogs gives me drive, energy and ambition to this day. Everything else in life became less intimidating after having competed on the biggest stage and gave it my all. Even if they don't final in their events, they've earned the best seats in the house to watch the fastest swimming in the history of the world.

“Swimming at NCAA's seems different than conference but its not, the only difference is that everyone participating in each event is of a higher caliber and the time differential from first to last is much smaller.”

Bears Win First MAC Championship, 19th League Title
The Missouri State men's swimming & diving team won the 2014 MAC Swimming & Diving Championship March 8, completing a wire-to-wire run at Buffalo's Alumni Arena Natatorium.

The victory, which the Bears (833 points) claimed over second-place Eastern Michigan, was 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 I am of this group of men and the staff," said MSU head coach Dave Collins, who was named the MAC Outstanding Swimming Coach of the Year. "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 MSU women's team won its 11th MVC title and seventh consecutive crown Feb. 15 in Carbondale, Ill.

Kalnins was named MAC Swimmer of the Year while Garrett Nevels picked up MAC Diver of the Year honors.

Bears Topple No. 25 Iowa; Earn Shamrock Invitational Split
Missouri State closed the regular season on a high note, going toe-to-toe with No. 25 Iowa and host Notre Dame at the Shamrock Invitational Jan. 31-Feb.1, defeating the Hawkeyes, 213-157. The Bears received three event wins on the opening day of the meet and three more on the second day to finish strong.

Juniors Le and Caleb Schuermann and sophomores Kalnins and Jack Snow began the meet winning the 200-free relay in 1:22.01. Le followed that with a win in the 200 IM in 1:48.16 before he, sophomore Isaac Springer, junior Vitalii Baryshok and Kalnins took the 400-medley relay in 3:15.68 to close the first day.

Le then won the 100 back (48.29), 100 butterfly (49.14) and 200 back (1:46.60), respectively, on the final day for the Bears. The team of Le, Kalnins, Schuermann and Baryshok won the 400-free relay in 3:00.81, the last event of the meet.

MSU Cracks CollegeSwimming.com on Top 25 Nov. 26, Feb. 5
The Missouri State men’s swimming & diving team entered the CollegeSwimming.com Endless Pools Top 25 poll at No. 25 following its third-place team finish at the TYR Invitational at Northwestern’s Norris Aquatics Center. The Bears rose some 26 spots in the poll from the previous week. MSU reentered the poll at No. 24 after splitting with Iowa and Notre Dame at the Shamrock Invitational Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Iowa, which the Bears defeated, 213-157, was ranked 25th in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll coming into the meet.

Bears Receive National Media Attention

Collins and Le have been guests on the Swimming World “Morning Swim Show” video podcast, hosted by Jeff Commings. Le appeared on the show following his performance at the TYR Invitational to discuss his season and career at Missouri State. Collins was part of the show highlighting the activities surrounding the Oklahoma Splash Bash.

Also, prior to NCAA championships, Kalnins was profiled by Swimming World in its series on first-time NCAA qualifiers.



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