No. 4 Indiana men’s swim and dive prevailed during the NCAA Championships this week inside McAuley Aquatic Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, taking home a fifth-place finish.
“Our team finishing top five nationally is all we could've asked for and more,” head swimming coach Ray Looze said. “I am so proud of all our men. This was a total team effort."
The Hoosiers faced some adversity through the first day of competition Wednesday, as their No. 6-seeded 200-yard medley relay squad of seniors Gabriel Fantoni and Bruno Blaskovic, freshman Josh Matheny and sophomore Tomer Frankel struggled to finish in the top 10, placing 15th with a time of 1:23.31.
"The evening started rough with our 200 (yard) medley relay," Looze said. "We definitely had higher hopes there, but I was really happy to move up from 10th to ninth in that 800 (yard) free relay.”
Indiana’s 800-yard freestyle relay squad of freshman Rafael Miroslaw, junior Brendan Burns, senior Van Mathias and Frankel worked for a ninth-place finish, finishing just above its No. 10 rank with a time of 6:11.96. It was a photo finish, with Mathias out-touching Virginia Tech by one-hundredth of a second to clock in at 6:11.84.
While the second day of competition was described by Looze as the weakest day on the scoreboard for the Hoosiers, they still moved from 11th to eighth place in the competition with three top-eight finishes. Strong performances from senior Andrew Capobianco and the No. 8 200-yard relay squad of senior Jack Franzman, Blaskovic, Van Mathias and Miroslaw put the Hoosiers a few spots higher.
Capobianco earned his first-ever NCAA medal with a second-place finish on the 1-meter springboard, scoring 420.25. He was named All-American in the 1-meter event for his performance, extending Indiana’s streak with the honor in the 1-meter to five straight seasons.
In the first NCAA Championships of his career, freshman diver Quinn Henninger was also named All-American on the 1-meter, placing sixth with a score of 378.80.
"Andrew didn't miss a dive all day,” head diving coach Drew Johansen said. “His consistency was as good as I have ever seen out of him. Quinn showed great composure throughout the day as the lone freshman in the A final.”
After missing last year’s national meet due to a back injury, Blaskovic aided the 200-yard freestyle relay, swimming the opening leg to set the pace. Blaskovic earned the 11th All-American honors of his career with his performance.
The rest of the squad in the freestyle relay, Mathias, Miroslaw and Franzman, helped improve the Hoosiers’ seedtime from 1:15.81 to 1:15.47 to secure eighth place, just six-hundredths of a second short of Indiana’s program record.
"I'm really proud of the team today," Looze said. "For Bruno, coming back from such a terrible injury over the last year and a half, to see him swim and to lead us into the top eight in that relay, I couldn't be happier for him.”
The highlights of the meet for the Hoosiers came on Friday and Saturday. Energy, effort and three silver medal performances pushed Indiana into fifth place to end the championships.
The first silver medal performance came from the record-breaking No. 1 400-yard medley relay squad, which also earned gold at the Big Ten Championships from Feb. 23-26. At the NCAA Championships, the group of Burns, Matheny, Frankel and Miroslaw timed in at 3:00.76, an All-American-deserving time and new program record.
Additional second-place finishes came from Capobianco in the 3-meter dive with a score of 462.10, earning an All-American title.
Burns’ time of 44.15 in the 100-yard backstroke secured him an All-American title, program record and career-best 100-yard backstroke time. His backstroke time at the NCAA Championships is now also the fifth all-time fastest in American history.
Burns continued to excel, placing first in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:38.71 to beat the program record he previously set. His efforts and success helped the Hoosiers secure a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships.
"I knew I would have to have a perfect race," Burns said. “I'm just happy I was able to execute a great race against great competition."
Indiana’s fifth-place finish is its third top-five team placement in the last four NCAA Championships. The Hoosiers have earned top-10 finishes in eight of the last 10 full seasons going back to 2012.
Junior Michael Brinegar, who owned the No. 9 seed in the 1,650-yard freestyle heading into the championships, placed sixth with a time of 14:33.76, earning an All-American title. The No. 9-ranked 400-yard freestyle relay squad of Miroslaw, Blaskovic, Frankel and Mathias took seventh place with a time of 2:48.21, earning an All-American honor.
The Big Ten champions, fifth-place NCAA champions and regular-season undefeated Hoosiers of Indiana men’s swim and dive now look ahead to the 2022-2023 season. Individual competition will take place at the USA Swimming Open Water Nationals from April 1-3 in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.