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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Men’s swim takes 3rd at NCAAs

A week full of adversity came to an end for the Arizona men’s swim and dive team, finishing in third place at the NCAA Championships.

Third place wasn’t the expected result for the Wildcats, who came into the championships as the top-ranked team in the nation. But even after a contagious norovirus struck nine members of the team, head coach Frank Busch’s spirits weren’t dampened.

“”Awesome. Amazing is all I can say,”” Busch said of the team’s finish under the circumstances. “”I couldn’t be more proud of this team. This is one of the greatest performances in the history of this program.””

Senior swimmer Jordan Smith said that coming together as a team is the reason the Wildcats are satisfied with the weekend’s results.

“”We achieved something amazing by getting third in the NCAAs, and the way we did it was representative of what this team has been about all year,”” Smith said.

While the team was happy with its performance, members also understand that the result very easily could have been different.

“”It’s obvious that the sickness affected us pretty bad because we’ve been getting so much better every day, and I think if we were healthy we definitely would have been challenging for the title,”” said senior Jean Basson.

Less than a week ago, Arizona appeared to be on its way to winning its second national championship in three years. The team had everything going for it: an undefeated dual meet season, the most qualified swimmers of any NCAA team and a handful of past champions.

Then came Tuesday.

Late that night, nine UA swimmers were among the 19 people admitted to the Ohio State University Medical Center with what seemed to be a gastrointestinal illness. It was later determined that the swimmers had contracted the highly contagious norovirus, forcing them to spend a night in the hospital before being released on Wednesday.

The swimmers were given an extra day to recover after the start of the championships were pushed back to Friday at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“”After seeing how sick they were, I knew it was unlikely that they would be at full strength when the events started,”” Busch said at the time.

The virus led to a tough few days for the team.

“”We weren’t allowed to swim. We couldn’t really eat, so it was all about just taking in fluids, trying to rest and trying to get our strength back,”” said Basson, who had the norovirus.

While the UA wasn’t able to win the team national championship, two UA swimmers were able to dive past the norovirus and take home individual national championships.

Senior Clark Burckle ended his collegiate swimming career on a high note by winning the 200-yard breaststroke national championship with a time of 1:53.19.

Burckle’s performance, however, was topped by fellow Kentucky native, sophomore Cory Chitwood, who set a new pool record at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in the 200y backstroke, winning with a time of 1:39.29. Chitwood also placed first in the consolation heat of the 100y backstroke with a time of 45.77.

The 400y individual was a big point-scoring race for the team. Senior Jack Brown placed fourth and sophomore Austen Thompson won the consolation heat at 3:42.37. Brown also won the consolation heat of the 200y individual medley.

The team got off to a slow start by finishing in sixth place after Day 1, but on Day 2 the Wildcats made the jump to third place.

Basson started the meet off by coming up just short of repeating as national champion in the 500y freestyle finals. Basson barely qualified into the championship heat and then was as far back as sixth early in the race.

He began to move up and even caught up to the leader, Florida’s Conor Dwyer. The race came down right to the end with Basson finishing second, only a fraction of a second behind Dwyer.

“”I wanted to win that race so bad,”” Basson said. “”I know I’m one of the best to ever swim that race and I was the defending champ. It really hurt to lose that and I don’t want to use being sick as an excuse, but I know I would’ve been a few seconds faster than that had my preparation gone smoothly.””

While Basson didn’t want to fully blame the outcome of the race on being sick, he believes that it did play a factor.

“”I can say personally that it did for sure. I didn’t feel like myself the whole meet,”” he said. “”My swims took so much more out of me than I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve never been this tired during a meet before.””

Later in the 200y freestyle finals, Basson finished eighth, which was good enough to make him an All-American for the fourth consecutive year.

The team had some success in relay events, but not nearly as strong overall as usual. The UA’s top relay finish was third in the 800y free relay when the group of Brown, Basson, sophomore Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or and senior Joel Greenshields recorded a time of 6:18.33. The UA also placed fifth in the 200y medley relay with the team of Smith, senior Bryan O’Connor, redshirt junior Marcus Titus and sophomore Adam Small.

Junior diver Ben Grado scored some points for the team with a sixth place finish in the 3-meter event. Grado’s appearance in the championship heat was the first time in eight years that the team had a diver in the heat.

While the Wildcats are leaving Columbus without a national championship, they are leaving with their heads held high.

“”We can’t be disappointed with how we performed here. To get third, have two national champions after what we have been through just shows what a strong and united team we are and have been all year,”” Basson said.

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