Flying high off the diving board and into the night, senior James Connor continued his undefeated diving streak as his No. 2 Hoosiers remained perfect on the swimming front. With a score of 1828.5, IU men’s swim and dive defeated North Carolina State, Louisville and Arizona State at home in the IU Invitational this weekend.
“It was a fun one to be apart of and watching our guys come along this far was impressive to see,” Connor said. “Results aside, I’m just happy to be diving well and trying to lead the team as best I can.”
Connor has won all seven of his entered diving events this season. While other divers were talking with friends or practicing between rounds, Connor put on his green and yellow headphones and listened to the same playlist he has had since 2012 to stay consistent and locked in.
“I’m a huge believer that your routine protects you when you’re feeling nervous or juiced up,” he said. “I take myself completely out of everything. I have no idea how the others are diving and I’m not watching the scoreboard.”
Connor’s routine served him well as he outscored his opponents with 421.20 points on the 1-meter dive and 451.80 on the 3-meter. According to diving coach Drew Johansen, Connor’s undefeated streak is a direct result of his work ethic and dedication to pushing his teammates and himself during practice.
“He’s one of the best in the world, and he really got a lot of pressure today with some good diving from his teammates,” Johansen said. “James has a target on his back and he wears it well.”
Connor’s teammate, sophomore Andrew "Cap" Capobianco, was the runner-up in both events finishing with 340.70 on the 1-meter dive and 429.80 on the 3-meter.
For the platform diving, IU sophomore Mory Gould came in third with a score of 314.20 and senior Clark Carter took seventh (244.55). James Brady of North Carolina State (353.30) and Daniel Fecteau of Louisville (321.70) took first and second respectively.
For the IU swimmers, the Hoosiers won two relays, four individual events and achieved five of the fastest times in the nation during the event. IU also had 55 NCAA B cut worthy performances and four NCAA A cuts.
“This was close throughout, and I don’t think we started this meet matching NC State’s intensity with the relays, but our guys figured it out,” Coach Ray Looze said. “We wanted to bring in teams that would really put out a great competition and NC State and ourselves are very similar teams.”
North Carolina State, the competition’s runner-up, was a formidable opponent for IU. During the invitational, the Wolfpack won almost every event that the Hoosiers placed second or third in.
On Thursday’s 200 freestyle relay, the Wolfpack clinched the fastest time in the nation, 1:16.41, while the Hoosier team of seniors Zach Apple and Vini Lanza, as well as sophomore Bruno Blaskovic and junior Mohamed Samy, placed second with a time of 1:17.37. NC State also defeated IU on the 400 medley relay by less than a second.
For the individual events, North Carolina State’s top-ranked Andrea Vazaios defeated IU’s Samy and Lanza on the 200 individual medley while Justin Ress defeated IU’s Apple and Blaskovic on the 50 freestyle.
On Friday and Saturday the Wolfpack continued with strong performances but were not able to keep pace with the Hoosiers.
The 800 free relay team of Apple, Lanza, Samy and senior Ian Finnerty notched a NCAA A cut performance and first place over North Carolina State on Friday with a time of 6:17.78. Looze said this gave the team powerful momentum going into the final night.
“That really turned things around for us,” he said. “Thursday, we didn’t come out with the intensity necessary against this good of competition and those four really gave us a good slingshot into today.”
On Friday, Samy also achieved the fastest time in the nation and a NCAA A cut performance time of 1:32.97 on the 200 freestyle, which barely beat ASU. Finnerty also claimed the quickest time in the nation and a NCAA A cut performance of 51.22 on the 100 breaststroke.
Indiana continued its relay and individual success Saturday with freshman Michael Brinegar achieving the fastest time in Hoosier history, 14:40.38, and the second fastest in the nation on the 1650 freestyle.
“I was trying to focus on maintaining my stroke and tempo and not putting too much energy into it,” Brinegar said. “I looked around to see where I was at, but at some point I just stopped and concentrated on finishing strong.”
IU’s Apple also took first in the 100 freestyle with a time of 42.44, the fastest in the nation for the season. Samy took third in the event with a time of 42.61.
The closing 400 free relay event was met with a voracious uproar of “Wolfpack relay!” and “Hoosier relay!” from all corners of the CBAC’s pool. The race was neck and neck up until the final second, where the team of Apple, Samy, Lanza and Blaskovic touched the wall just 23 tenths of a second before NC State.
“If you’re going to win a national title, you’ve got to go against good competition and we’ve done that against Florida and Texas, and now NC State, Louisville and Arizona State,” Looze said.
For IU, the next swim and dive meet is two months out. On Jan. 17 at the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatics Center, the Hoosiers will take on Big Ten rival Michigan at home.
“This next week we’re going to take to recover but after that we go right back into training,” Brinegar said.
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