AUSTIN, Texas -- Michigan serenaded themselves with “Hail to the Victors” after winning last year’s NCAA Division I swimming & diving championships.
Can they pull an encore in 2014?They have a shot. As this year’s top qualifiers gather at Texas to decide the latest NCAA titles, Michigan’s men are eyeing a repeat. A total of 56 schools and 270 participants — 235 swimmers and 35 divers — compete Thursday through Saturday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swimming Center in Austin.
At stake are individual and relay event titles, and the overall team title.
Florida is ranked No. 1. Michigan is ranked No. 2. California is ranked No. 3 and Southern California and Ohio State are tied for fourth. Host Texas is No. 6.
California and Texas lead the list of qualifiers with 16 swimmers each. Florida (14), Michigan (13), Georgia (11) and Arizona (10) bring the next-largest squads, respectively.
California and Texas are 2014 conference champions — the former in the Pac-12 and the latter in the Big 12. The Gators are fresh off a second consecutive Southeastern Conference title and return their entire NCAA-champion, 800-meter freestyle relay team
“On paper, from what we’ve seen, this looks like it is going to be a highly competitive meet,” Florida head coach Gregg Troy said. “There are eight to 10 really competitive teams that have a chance to win the national title. There are also a lot of talented individual swimmers, which I think will make it one of the most competitive NCAA meets in recent history.”
Florida will rely on senior All-Americans Marcin Cieslak, Sebastien Rousseau, Brad deBorde and Connor Signorin. Cieslake scored a pair of NCAA runner-up performances last year (200 IM and 200 butterfly). Rousseau was named the 2014 SEC swimmer of the year and received the SEC’s Commissioners Trophy after winning three individual titles and scoring the most points at the SEC meet.
Troy is even taking a secret weapon to Austin.
“We’re really excited to have 14 guys qualified for the meet,” he said. “I’m proud of the efforts that it took for them to get there. We’re going to take a 15th along, Christian-Paul Homer, as a relay alternate because he is key to the success of some of our relays. I’m happy for the guys and looking forward to a fantastic competition.”
All 13 Wolverines qualified for this week’s championship also participated in the 2013 NCAA meet. As reigning Big 10 champions, they’ll pursue a second consecutive NCAA title and the program’s 13th overall.
Last year’s NCAA triumph was Michigan’s first since 1995. It also ended a two-year title run by California, which finished second behind the Wolverines. Arizona finished third. Florida was sixth.
Michigan senior Connor Jaeger will defend his NCAA titles in the 500 and 1,650 freestyles. Michigan also is the defending champion in the 200 medley relay.
Arizona junior Kevin Cordes likely leads the watch list for individual performances. As the defending NCAA champion in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, he won both races last year in multiple-record-breaking fashion, and is top-ranked in both events.
Stanford junior David Nolan will defend his NCAA title in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. He was runner-up last year in the 200 backstroke.
In the diving competition, two All-Americans and Olympians — Duke senior Nick McCrory and Stanford junior Kristian Ipsen — are expected to dominate as they did in 2013. Both were 2012 U.S. Olympic teammates and bronze medalists in London.
In Austin, Ipsen will defend his 1-meter and 3-meter NCAA diving titles. He was the 2013 runner-up to McCrory in the platform event.
McCrory is after his fourth consecutive NCAA title in the platform event. Thus far, he’s a three-time All-American in all three diving disciplines, and was last year’s runner-up to Ipsen in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events.