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No. 2 IU men's swim and dive dominant quartet leads team in NCAA championships



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Then-junior Blake Pieroni competes in the 200-yard freestyle March 25, 2017, during the 2017 Swimming and Diving Championships at the IU-Purdue University Indianapolis Natatorium. IU men's swim and dive won its 27th Big Ten championship in program history on Saturday.  Victor Grössling Buy Photos

Seniors Zach Apple, Ian Finnerty, Vini Lanza and James Connor will lead a group of 16 Hoosiers at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships and figure to be crucial components in IU's quest for an NCAA title beginning Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

Apple will compete in the the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle. His ranking in the events are 10th, seventh and eighth respectively.

During the NCAA championships as a junior last year, Apple finished third in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:31.18 and tied for fifth on the 50 free with a time of 18.97 seconds. Now with IU after a transfer from Auburn University this summer, Apple was named first team All-Big Ten and won the 200-yard freestyle at the Big Ten championships.

Finnerty will swim in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events. He is favored to win the 100 and is projected second on the 200.

The former Big Ten rookie of the year recently became the only Big Ten athlete to win both breaststroke events four years in a row at the conference championships. Finnerty will look to repeat his performance at last year’s NCAA championships where he swept the events and became the only man to break the 50second barrier on the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 49.69 seconds.

Lanza qualified for the 100- and 200-yard butterfly, as well as the 200-yard individual medley. The Brazil native is expected to win the 200-yard butterfly and is ranked second in each of the other two events.

Lastly, Connor will compete in the 1- and 3-meter dives. This season, no diver outside of teammate Andrew Capobianco has defeated Connor. Connor was named the 2019 Big Ten Diver of the Championships.

The Australian Olympian has consistently been a top-five springboard finisher at the NCAA championships and has the IU school record for the platform dive with 532.45 points. However, he is searching for his first NCAA championship.

IU’s other divers competing at the NCAA championships are the sophomore duo Mory Gould and Capobianco. Gould finished a few spots below his teammates at the NCAA Zone C Qualifications but managed to finish strong on his final dives to qualify.

Capobianco took second in both springboard events and also punched his ticket to the platform dive with a seventh place finish. Like Connor, Capobianco is probable for a top-five finish on the springboards.

Seven other IU swimmers also qualified for the NCAA championships. Freshmen Zane Backes, Michael Brinegar, Mikey Calvillo and Van Mathias, sophomores Gabriel Fantoni and Bruno Blaskovic, and junior Mohamed Samy will compete in individual events.

Backes will be in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events. Distance swimmers Brinegar and Calvillo will both be in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Mathias is entered in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly.

After dominant outings at the Big Ten championships, Fantoni will take on competitors in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, plus the 100-yard butterfly. Blaskovic will be in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle as well as the 100-yard butterfly.

Samy, the final swimmer, earned his invite to the NCAA championships for the 200-yard freestyle.

IU also qualified for all five relay events: the 200-, 400- and 800-yard freestyle relays, as well as the 200- and 400-yard medley relays. IU is favored to win the 400-yard medley coming in with the top time in the nation of 3:01.63. IU is also ranked third in the 800-yard freestyle with a time of 6:11.02 and fifth in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:16.01.

Head Coach Ray Looze said the team has has had its eyes on the NCAA championships all season long and that he is proud of the work and development from his team.

“I’m really happy for the kids, the staff and for Indiana University,” Looze said. “This is going to be a blessing when we look at it later.”

Michigan, the University of Texas and the University of California, Berkeley, pose three of the strongest threats to IU this week. Each of these teams consistently ranks in the top five for the fastest times in the nation and has a handful of them as well.

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