By Chris Harrell
The big winners on Thursday morning were California and Texas.
After last week, I must admit I was little concerned that some of the reasons for the Cal women's lackluster performance might show up on the men's side as well. That's precisely why they appear third in my top 10 predictions. The early returns are that I may have missed the mark. The Golden Bears notched the most scoring opportunities for Thursday night, splitting them evenly with five in the A and five in the B. The GB's ranked second in the 200 free relay and fifth in the 400 medley, setting themselves up for big scoring chances tonight.
On an individual basis, Cal freshman Ryan Murphy erupted from a No. 49 seed in the 200 IM (1:45.75) to a spot in the big boy final with a monster lifetime-best swim of 1:42.24. He'll be joined by teammate Josh Prenot who was only ranked 13th himself (is seeded fifth). Cal also got a big boost from Seth Stubblefield who improved his ranking from 12th to third in the 50.
Texas, oh Texas. Man were they on fire this morning. They punched the entire 200 free relay field in the mouth with a collegiate best 1:15.95, ahead of perennial favorites Auburn and Cal. For good measure they added a second place seed in the 400 medley, just missing the top seed by .07. Keep in mind the Longhorns were ranked eighth and 14th in these two relays entering the meet. Talk about defending your home pool!
One place where Texas will really hurt the other national championship contending teams is in the diving well. While Cal, Florida, and Michigan have a combined ZERO divers here, the Longhorns have four -- none of which snuck into this meet. Michael Hixon and Corey Bowersox rank second and third going into one-meter finals tonight. Folks, that's like having an extra relay. Texas was also the beneficiary of the oh-so-important eighth spot in two of the three individual swimming finals tonight. Freshman Jack Conger snapped up the last spot in the 500 free big boy final while sophomore Matthew Ellis did likewise, joining teammate John Murray in an incredibly deep 50 free final.
Here are the up/downs for the top four teams who looked to be in for a long week of battle (diving included):
It's been quite I while since I've seen such a bloodbath in the relays as too place this morning. Three teams were disqualified in the 200 free relay while an eye-popping six were tossed out in the 400 medley relay. That's more in one session of the men's meet than were thrown out all of last week at the women's meet. Why does it seem like, year-in, year-out, the men get disqualified so much more than the women?
High Climbers: The high climber awards from a scoring standpoint this morning were as follows:
200 Free Relay - Michigan; 17th to 8th
500 Free - Thomas Duvall, Navy; 14th to 7th
200 IM - Ryan Murphy, Cal; 49th to 8th
50 Free - John Murray, Texas; 22nd to 5th
400 Medley Relay - Texas; 12th to 2nd
200 Free Relay - Stanford; 29th (and last) to 10th
500 Free - Zane Grothe, Auburn; 31st to 12th
200 IM - Will Licon, Texas; 55th to 12th
50 Free - Andrew Kosic, Georgia Tech; 30th to 15th
400 Medley Relay - Missouri; 23rd to 15th