Team underperforms at NCAAs

Utah Swim team vs. BYU Colby Patterson
Nick Soedel competes against BYU on Dec. 1, 2012 in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of Steve C. Wilson.

Nick Soedel competes against BYU on Dec. 1, 2012 in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of Steve C. Wilson.

The Utah men’s swim and dive team went into last weekend’s NCAA Championships looking to make a splash on the national scene, but instead, made a drop.

The Utes finished the meet 35th in the nation, two places lower than last season. While Utah had many swimmers who came close to earning All-American honors, only one athlete, diver Josiah Purss on the one-meter dive, actually reached that status.

“It was a bit of mixed bag,” said head coach Joe Dykstra. “We were hoping for a little higher ranking than we got in a lot of races, but I know it was really valuable experience for our guys.”

Junior Nick Soedel was coming off a victory in the 100-yard freestyle at the Pac-12 Championships and came in to the NCAA meet seeded third in the nation. However, he finished with a disappointing 19th-place finish at the meet.

Soedel wasn’t alone, as relays and individuals alike underperformed.

“Most of those guys will be back,” Dykstra said. “They can take the experience and go back hungrier and with a greater fire with a chance to place much higher next year.”

It wasn’t all bad for the Utes, though, as they did manage to set four school records. Soedel broke the 200-yard freestyle record, and Bence Kiraly broke the 500-, 1000-, and 1650-yard freestyle records.

In order to reach new heights, Dykstra thinks the team must qualify for the NCAAs in the fall and not during the Pac-12 Championships.

“The team now understands how critically important it is for us to qualify our relays in the fall so that we don’t have to taper guys down for the Pac-12s,” Dykstra said. “When you do that, it’s hard to come back and repeat the performance in the NCAAs.”

He pointed to the men’s national champion, Cal, as an example. The Golden Bears weren’t rested or shaved for the conference meet and had significant time drops last weekend in all events on their way to the national crown.

“We need to push ourselves towards that,” Dykstra said. “We have to get a group qualified in the fall. That will be the key to having a much better showing at NCAAs.”

On the diving end of the pool, the Utes had their second consecutive week of crowning an All-American. Purss won the one-meter dive consolation final to take ninth in the competition.

“It’s great company to keep, and I think that we will be here for awhile,” head dive coach Richard Marschner said. “It’s been a fun process to get where we’re at, and we have some room to grow.”

Purss duplicated Merry’s feat, taking first in the consolation final after missing out on the championship final.

“I think it’s better to take first in the B final then take last in the A final,” Marschner said. “It shows that you at least showed up and competed.”

Purss may have became an All- American, but he couldn’t break fellow teammate Jacob Crayne’s school record in the process, which left him with a bittersweet feeling.

“Josiah and Jake have a friendly rivalry, always trying to one up each other,” Marcshner said. “Josiah was obviously very happy about his accomplishment, but Jake probably rubbed it in a little bit that his name is going up on the record board.”

With the conclusion of this meet, the swim and dive team’s season is now over as the Utes will enter the offseason.

r.miller@chronicle.utah.edu