Vols land on podium in final event at NCAAs

In 6 minutes, 21.87 seconds, the Tennessee men’s swimming and diving team turned a disappointing day into something special Friday night in the second day of the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis.

After missing the evening finals in their other events — including a disqualification on their first relay — the Vols capped off the day by earning a trip to the podium with a seventh-place finish in the 800-yard freestyle relay.

The All-American team of Samuel Rairden, Gustav Aberg Ledjstrom, Sean Lehane and Tristan Slater were all smiles on the podium after keeping pace with the leaders in the last race of the session. Their performance gives the Vols momentum heading into the meet’s final day.

“I’m really proud of these guys for being Tennessee men and standing up and competing tonight after a rough morning,” UT coach Matt Kredich said. “They didn’t hang their heads. They picked it up and got it done tonight.”

The 24 points from the relay bumped the Vols four places into 19th in the team standings. Michigan leads with 336 points, followed by California (301.5). Tennessee finished 22nd last year.

Senior Brent Sterling highlighted the Vols’ day by earning the NCAA Elite 89 Award for the second consecutive season. The honor is given to the competitor in the meet with the highest GPA, and the fifth-year senior diver is wrapping up his degree in biochemistry and molecular biology with a 3.98 GPA.

“He’s the epitome of a student-athlete,” Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington said. “It was an honor to see him get that award for the second time in the last two years.”

The Vols endured a rough morning in the preliminaries, starting with the opening swim of the day. The 200-yard medley relay team, perhaps the Vols’ fastest relay team, was disqualified after an early takeoff on the final exchange.

In individual preliminary races: sophomore Tristan Slater placed 24th in the 400 IM (3:46.92); junior Renato Prono was 32nd in the 100 breaststroke (54.14); and in the 100 backstroke, Samuel Rairden was 25th (47.09) and Sean Lehane was 31st (47.42).

Sterling missed on a few dives in the middle of his list to put him out of the running on the 3-meter springboard. He finished the prelims in 27th with a score of 318.90.

“It was a tough day on the boards for Brent,” Parrington said. “He had four solid dives and two that let him down, and at this level of competition, you just can’t miss dives like that. I know he gave it his all and I couldn’t be more proud of that.”

Kredich said it was a bitter pill for the team to swallow when they arrived back at IU Natatorium for the evening session and had to watch a session full of races without any Tennessee competitors.

“We watched time after time, event after event, where we felt like we could’ve had people get in there and compete, but we weren’t there,” Kredich said.

The Vols had one point-scoring opportunity in the evening session with the 800 freestyle relay and made the most of the timed final.

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Comments » 1

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

That 200m DQ was a killer, good job making the podium after a slow start..

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