The No. 13 USC men’s swimming and diving team finished 11th overall at the NCAA championships at Ohio State’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, topping off its season with strong improvements both as a team and as individual members.
“While we fell a bit short of our goal of top 10 this season for the men, we clearly are making inroads toward breaking into the top 10 with an eye on the top five soon,” said USC coach Dave Salo.
The competition’s start was delayed 24 hours, as 18 student-athletes and one coach were being treated at Ohio State for a possible gastrointestinal illness Tuesday and Wednesday.
When the event kicked off Friday, junior Clement Lefert led the team by finishing third in the 500-yard freestyle with a 4:13.77. Lefert had a comfortable lead throughout the race until the final 50 yards, where he was overtaken by Conor Dwyer of Florida (4:13.64) and Jean Basson of Arizona (4:13.65); a mere .13 seconds separated the top-three finishers. This marked USC’s best performance in the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships since Olympic medalist Larsen Jensen won the event in 2007.
“Clement did his thing and almost won the 500,” USC assistant coach Jeremy Kipp said. “But he also gained incredible experience that will help him contend next season for the 500 title.”
Junior Richard Charlesworth made the consolation final in the 500-yard freestyle and came in eighth in his race with a time of 4:23.88 (16th overall). That time was, however, four seconds slower than his preliminary performance (4:19.09).
Sophomore diver Harrison Jones just missed qualification for the 1-meter springboard final after finishing ninth in the preliminaries (364.20). He went on to finish tied for seventh in the consolation final with a score of 355.15, to tie for 15th overall. Jones also just missed out on making the final in platform but ended up winning the consolation final and finishing ninth overall with 376.40 points.
“Despite illness into the last day of competition, Harrison Jones came away with an outstanding result in the platform event,” Salo said.
On Saturday, the Trojans came in sixth in the 800-yard freestyle relay (6:20.87). The Trojans won this event at the 2010 Pac-10 championships but this time used a different team with regulars Lefert, senior Zoltan Povazsay, sophomore co-captain Patrick White and freshmen Nick Karpov replacing senior co-captain James Martin. Texas won the race in 6:12.77.
Lefert and White both missed qualifying for the final of the 200-yard freestyle, taking ninth (1:34.11) and 15th (1:35.02) in the preliminaries, respectively. Lefert won the consolation final (1:33.84), finishing ninth overall with a time that would have placed him sixth in the A-final. White came in third in the same consolation final, finishing 11th overall with a time of 1:34.69.
Sophomore Dillon Connolly and junior Emmett Walling both swam in the consolation final of the 100-yard breaststroke, where Connolly took fifth (13th overall) in 53.35 while Walling came in eighth (16th overall) in 54.02.
Sunday’s competition saw Charlesworth become the sixth-fastest miler in USC history; he posted a season best of 14:54.51 and came ninth overall, touching just 0.80 seconds out of top eight.
Lefert scored in his third individual event of the competition in the 200-yard butterfly where he finished in 1:44.15.
“Clement Lefert was clearly our standout performer,” Salo said.
The Trojan 400-yard freestyle relay of Walling, White Povazsay and sophomore Jeff Daniels finished 12th with a time of 2:54.88.
USC finished with 116.5 points at the NCAA championships, which marked the team’s final collegiate competition of the season.
“We did well, but the coaches are already looking forward to next season,” Kipp said.