Tide members prepare for NCAA Championships

Marilyn Vaughn

As students returned to campus from the spring break, the Alabama men’s swimming and diving team found its members leaving campus for the water.

Having spent spring break on campus training in the pool, the Crimson Tide team is ready to leave for Columbus, Ohio, where three of its members will compete over the course of three days in the NCAA Championships on March 25-27, while three others are alternates.

The six swimmers who earned their chance to compete at NCAAs did so by qualifying at the NCAA Zone B Championships March 12-14 in Atlanta.

At the end of day one at the NCAA Zone B Championships, the Tide had two men’s divers finish in the top-10 with senior Aaron Fleshner placing fourth with 779.40 points on the 1M board and junior Adam Booher placing seventh with 675.70 points on the 3M board. Fleshner will compete at NCAAs, while Booher is the first diver alternate out of Zone B.

Also heading to the NCAA Championships is senior Mark Randall, who will go into the meet with the No. 2-seed time in the country in the 500 freestyle and the No. 7-seed time in the mile, and junior Denes Zubcsek.

Other alternates include freshman Anestis Aramptzis, the championship’s first alternate, and Riley Boulden, the third alternate.

“There were some good scores,” said head coach Eric McIlquham. “We had someone get injured the day before, so they had to go to the hospital, and they weren’t able to compete. But having them come back was pretty impressive. The meet was pretty upbeat after that.”

Alabama has had nearly two weeks since the NCAA Zone B Championships to prepare for NCAAs, but the women’s swim team did not. They had a mere four days before they had to travel to their NCAA Championship, which was held in Lafayette, Ind., March 18-20. The women went on to place 32nd in the meet with sophomore Carrie Dragland claiming second place in the platform and senior Agustina de Giovanni receiving honorable mention All-American honors for her performance in the 100 breaststroke.

McIlquham said he does not believe the women’s success adds any pressure to the men’s team’s expectations and said he believes that in order for the men to succeed, they just need to “persevere and get after it.”

Some of the men have experience competing into the swimming postseason and can be expected to do well at NCAAs. Fleshner, who has placed as high as third in his best finish at NCAAs, will be making his fourth career trip to nationals this year.

“I think they can do a pretty good job,” McIlquham said. “It’ll be a matter of making sure we can get up and get after it in the morning. We have several individuals who can score and be big finalists.”