The historic season is over for the IU men’s swimming and diving team.
IU Coach Ray Looze said his squad exceeded his expectations during a season in which he only had hope for a top-five finish. Yet, the Hoosiers finished in the top three.
IU's finish marks the sixth time in the past seven years it has placed in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships.
The year proved to be historic for the Hoosiers, with IU setting Big Ten records on a daily basis at some points. IU's third-place finish marks the best it has placed in the NCAA Championships since 1975, when it finished second.
Despite only having eight swimmers, while other teams had upwards of 18, the Hoosiers were within reach of the national title once again.
“We had a shot until the last three or four events and our guys ran out of a little bit of gas,” Looze said. “Honestly, it was the best meet I’ve ever been a part of.”
Going into the championship, Looze said IU needed to perform perfectly in order to take home the crown.
They almost proved him right.
Looze said his team performed at 95-percent, falling just short of perfection and the title.
It could've been said that the Hoosiers collapsed going into the events Saturday, when they held sole possession of the lead, but Looze knew the finish would be grueling.
“We put a tremendous amount of pressure on them,” Looze said. “They would’ve had to have handed it to us, but we had an incredible run.”
Texas and California overtook the Hoosiers on the final day of the championships. Texas battled back and claimed its fourth consecutive NCAA title with 449 points. California and IU rounded out the top three with 437.5 and 422 points, respectively.
While the Hoosiers fell short of their overall NCAA Championship goals, they racked up 42 All-American honors among 12 swimmers and divers.
Senior Blake Pieroni led the way, earning All-American honors in all seven of his events. Pieroni closed his career at IU with 19 All-American awards overall.
Next year, the Hoosiers will be without their standout Pieroni, and Looze said he knows it's going to take a collective effort to replace him.
“Blake's career at Indiana was so incredible and his impact was huge,” Looze said. “He’ll be a hard guy to replace. One guy doesn’t replace a guy like that.”
While Pieroni’s importance to the team will be missed, another senior, Michael Hixon will also leave a void.
Hixon earned All-American awards in his events, the 1- and 3-meter dive. Hixon is a NCAA Champion, winning the 1-meter dive, but finished third in the 3-meter.
Junior Vini Lanza also had an impressive championship, earning six All-American honors with IU and Big Ten records. Lanza set IU and Big Ten records in the 200 IM (1:40.82), the 200 butterfly (1:39.75) and the 100 butterfly (44.50).
While multiple Hoosiers racked up accolades, the star of the NCAA Championship was Caeleb Dressel from Florida.
Dressel broke every record he could have this week. Most notably he became the first man in recorded history to break 40 seconds in the 100 free, with a time of 39.90. Dressel now also holds the 10 fastest times for the 50 free in total now with his first place finish (17.63).
“He’s the next Michael Phelps," Looze said. "He’s just on such another level than anybody. He’s going to break a slew of world records this summer.”
The high praise from Looze comes from seeing Dressel and Florida three times this season.
“To be able to beat that team with that superstar, I was really surprised,” Looze said.
The ability to beat high-caliber teams earned Looze and diving coach Drew Johansen awards for coaches of the year. Looze won the CSCAA Swimming Coach of the Year and Johansen earned the CSCAA Diving Coach of the Year.
Although the Hoosiers didn't bring home the top slot, the awards they earned at the NCAA Championships speaks volumes to the team's ability and talent.
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