GENEVA, Ohio -- Senior Nick McCarthy captured the 50 free national title to highlight defending champion Drury 's efforts as the NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships got underway Wednesday at the Spire Institute.McCarthy, who had placed 17th, 16th and ninth in the 50 in his first three seasons as a Panther, touched in 19.75 to edge teammate Daniel Radzkowski as the 1-2 finish helped the nine-time defending champion DU men build a big first-day lead. The Panthers have 144.5 points after the opening day to easily outdistance second-place Florida Southern (83), with UC San Diego (69) in third and Wayne State (Mich.) (57) in fourth.
"I'm just ecstatic for Nick, because I know how much work that kid has put into it for four years," Drury coach Brian Reynolds said of McCarthy. "They all work hard, but Nick had never quite popped at nationals in the previous years, and we knew he was capable of doing something special this year. For him to come out on top was a real treat."
While McCarthy's victory in his last shot at the 50 free was a headline-grabber, one of the true, behind-the-scenes highlights from Day 1 was an eighth place finish by Samuel Olson in the 50 free.
The junior's appearance on the awards podium came just two months after he suffered a broken collarbone in an accident during the team's annual training trip to Hawaii. Originally thought to be out for the season, Olson - one of Drury's brightest stars in the fall semester - worked his way back into the water and picked up valuable points on Wednesday, to go along with the massive respect of his teammates who witnessed his quick comeback.
"He had an excellent prelim swim this morning, but [Wednesday] was to be expected since he's a little bit rusty," Reynolds said. "To go to the well a couple of times during the day like today and expect him to be perfect is just about impossible. We were thrilled with Sam being able to get into the Top Eight and silence the critics who felt he should be forced to withdraw from the meet because he 'wouldn't be ready.' "