The Hoosiers went in with a goal to place in the top-10 at NCAA championships. But more than halfway through the meet, it looked as though they might fall a little short.
On Saturday morning before beginning the final day of events, IU was in 11th place.
IU Coach Ray Looze told his team that it was in the land of opportunities, now all it had to do was walk through the opened doors. And after a near perfect prelim session Saturday, the Hoosiers put themselves in a position to move into the top-10.
Big swims by the 400 freestyle relay team, and senior Tanner Kurz, sophomore Blake Pieroni, sophomore Anze Tavcar and freshman Vini Lanza helped IU finish in 9th place, with a total of 180.5 points.
This is the fourth top-10 finish for the men’s program in the event in the last five years.
“This showcases our high level of program consistency,” Looze said. “It puts us at the top as one of the elite programs in the country. We’re very proud of this performance. The guys had a laser focus on the last day and it made all the difference.”
IU finished as the top Big Ten team for the first time in thirty-eight years. In addition, IU beat out Auburn, Stanford and USC. The last time IU topped Stanford in the NCAA championships was in 1980.
Hoosiers that earned a single All-American Honor were junior diver Joshua Arndt, freshman Ian Finnerty, sophomore Oliver Patrouch and sophomore Cody Taylor. Swimmers with multiple Honors include junior Bob Glover, junior Sam Lorentz, junior Anze Tavcar, sophomore Ali Khalafalla, Kurz, Lanza and Pieroni.
Glover, Kurz, Lanza and Pieroni broke a school record Thursday in the 400 medley relay with their seventh place finish and time of 3:05.57. This was the first time IU had qualified for the championship final in the event since 1980.
Also on Thursday, Khalafalla set the school record with his time of 19.21 in the 50 freestyle.
After bringing out two new dives with a higher degree of difficulty in the 1-meter, Arndt missed them both to finish in last place. Looze gives him tremendous credit for the way he responded to adversity, though, and Arndt had one of the best performances of his career the next day.
Arndt qualified for the first NCAA championship final of his career, and went on to finish in 4th place.
“Josh had such a big role to fill this season,” Looze said. “He really rounded the corner for us on Friday and that meant so much to the team. To see him with all of his insecurities exposed and then to come all the way back and finish how he did, he did an admirable job.”
Also on Friday, Lanza placed third in the consolation final of the 100 butterfly and holds the top-3 times in the event at IU. Pieroni swam for a time of 1:33.46 in the 200 freestyle, to give him 8th place in the A final.
The Hoosiers managed to set another school record on Friday in the 200 medley relay, with Glover, Kurz, Lanza and Khalafalla timing in at 1:24.36.
Pieroni and Khalafalla were part of another record set by the Hoosiers on Saturday, this time in the 400 freestyle relay. With the help of Lorentz and Tavcar, IU finished 4th overall with a school record and Big Ten record time of 2:49.10.
“Every swimmer that IU brought to the event scored in one way or another,” Looze said. “We knew they had a shot to move up, as the coaching staff. It was just a matter of making them believe they had a shot as well.”
Kurz topped of his last NCAA performance with an 8th place finish in the championship final. Pieroni and Tavcar took first and second in the B final of the 100 freestyle as well. The last highlight of the meet came from Lanza, who was the first in IU history to swim a sub-1:42 in the 200 butterfly, with 1:41.8.
“With redshirting two of our top divers, we managed to jump from last year’s 12th place finish, to 9th,” Looze said. “Once we beat teams like this, it just becomes easier and easier to keep doing it.”
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