Nine DPU Men Headed to NCAA Swimming Championships
The DePauw men's swimmers begin their quest for national titles this week as they travel to Shenandoah, Texas for the NCAA Division III National Championship which runs from March 20--23.
In all, nine DePauw swimmers will compete in the national meet, one of the largest contingents in school history.
Leading the charge for the men is sophomore Casey Hooker who will compete in five events and is a favorite to gain All-America status in the 100-yard butterfly, an event he won at the North Coast Athletic Conference Championships.
Listed below, with the help of head coach Adam Cohen and assistant Riley Boulden, is a preview of each event along with Cohen's take on the race.
Men's 500 Freestyle -- DePauw sends two swimmers into the pool for this event, Casey Hooker and Alex Grissom. Hooker comes in as the seventh-seeded swimmer with a 4:30.29 time, just off the 'A' cut, while Grissom is seeded 26th, with a time of 4:35.25.
Coach Cohen's Take -- "Both young men are Indiana natives and training partners and we really feel this is an event we can step up in and gain some points. Both Hooker and Grissom have had some great swims this year but both feel there are better swims ahead of them. After speaking with Hooker, he told me 'we left the meet hungry last year and we need to establish ourselves in the 500.'"
Men's 200 Individual Medley -- The 200 IM will feature school--record holder Alex Alfonso who posted a 1:52.07 time, which is 17th fastest in the nation.
CCT -- "Alfonso arrived at DePauw as a sprinter and continues to be on all of our sprint relays. As the season went on, something clicked in (Alex) and he has been riding that wave ever since. Not only the entire coaching staff, but the entire team is excited to see him continue to develop as an IMer."
Men's 50 Freestyle -- Freshman Blake Lehmann is the lone DePauw swimmer participating in the 50 freestyle. Lehmann's time of 20.93 places him 35th in the country.
CCT -- "(Blake) will take part in one of the most exciting and crazy races in any meet. The start is key to a race that lasts just 20 seconds, and (Blake's) has consistently gotten better each and every meet this season, he could surprise some people in this event."
Men's 200 Medley Relay -- This is DePauw's highest-seeded relay coming into the national meet as it posted the third-fastest time of 1:30.13. Lehmann will lead off the event in the back before Matt Kukurugya enters the pool for the breaststroke portion. Alfonso will swim the fly before Jack Burgeson will take the anchor freestyle leg of the event.
CCT -- "There are a number of keys for our team in this event, (Blake) needs to continue to show improvement in leading off the relay, he started the year as our anchor, but has helped the team greatly by switching to the starting spot. If (Matt) and (Alex) can get us in a good position entering (Jack's) anchor leg, who knows what can happen. This is sure to be an exciting race."
Men's 200 Freestyle Relay -- DePauw enters the race with the 24th-fastest time of 1:24.51 and needs to trim around two seconds for an opportunity for a top-16 finish.
CCT -- "We did not swim to our fullest in this event at the NCAC meet, but feel that with a strong swim we can put ourselves in a great position to make the top 16."
Men's 100 Butterfly -- Hooker is seeded fifth in the 100 butterfly after winning the NCAC championship in the event with a time of 48.77. Lehmann is also participating in the event, stopping the clock at 49.61 at the conference meet, good enough to be seeded 26th heading into the NCAA Championship.
CCT -- "This will be a great event, it is by far the fastest event at this year for the men. (Casey) needs to have another great set of swims to hold his seed and has a great chance to be an all-american with a few great performances."
Men's 200 Freestyle -- This race will be swam by two DePauw freshman, Grissom and Danny McGuinness. Grissom is seeded 31st heading into his first swim at nationals after tallying a 1:40.94 time at NCAC's. McGuinness clocks in at 1:41.48, placing him 40th heading into the meet.
CCT -- "(Alex) has the potential to drop a lot of time in this event, and I feel he has the stroke and the turn to do so. (Danny) is just beginning his career in this event, so he will be a dark horse in his early swims, but his is definitely peaking at the right time."
Men's 400 Medley Relay -- DePauw's seed time of 3:22.05 in this event is an aggregate time. An aggregate time means it is added up from all the 'flat' starts or individual swims that were accomplished by other swimmers. Alfonso will lead off the relay in the backstroke, moving onto Hooker in the butterfly, then Kukuruguya will take to the pool for the breaststroke before handing the anchor leg to Lehmann.
CCT -- "This relay may be one of the biggest races of the meet, if the guys can swim to their potential we can surprise some people on the national landscape."
Men's 200 Butterfly -- This is Hooker's last swim of the meet, an event he comes in as the 33rd seed after a 1:54.93 performance in the conference meet.
CCT -- "(Casey) has a chance to stun some people in this event as he has not swam in the event a lot. With the right start and pacing throughout the race, this could open some eyes to (Casey's) swimming ability."
Men's 100 Backstroke -- Alfonso is the lone Tiger in this race, a new one for this DePauw sophomore. His 50.89 puts him in the top--30 entering the championship.
CCT -- "This is a new event for (Alex). He has not had the opportunity to work on his backstroke before this year, but he has had a great year and it will exciting when he jumps in the pool for this event."
Men's 100 Breaststroke -- Kukurugya scored in the national meet his sophomore year before swimming his junior season with a torn muscle in his shoulder. Back healthy, Kukurugya enters the NCAA meet on a high after registering a 56.55 in the event at the NCAC meet which is 16th--fastest entering the meet.
CCT -- "After fighting through injury last year, (Matt) is back and ready for some great swims after his hard work to get back in peak shape."
Men's 800 Freestyle Relay -- The 6:44.05 time in the 800 freestyle relay puts the freestyle relay squad in the top-eight entering the NCAA meet. Grissom, Matt Haeske, Hooker and Rob Spichiger will team up for this event.
CCT -- "This is a great relay team, the key for this team will be the swims of (Matt) and (Rob) as this is the one and only swim of the meet. This relay will be swam only once during the event, so the boys need to step up."
Men's 100 Freestyle -- Two freshman find themselves in this event with Lehmann and McGuinness. They registered times of 45.84 (40th) and 45.98 (45th), respectively.
CCT -- "This will be a great race to watch with two of our young guns going out there to try and show other swimmers and coaches that they shouldn't be taken lightly. I'm really excited to see a great swim from these two freshman."
Men's 200 Breaststroke -- Kukurugya will again have the torch for the Tigers in this event as he looks to make a splash by bettering his 2:05.29 time at NCAC's. His 23rd seed entering the championship puts him in a good position to make the top 16.
CCT -- "If (Matt) is able to put in a few good swims in both the 100 and the 200, I wouldn't be surprised to see him make All-American status. The hard work that (Matt) put in with his training will pay off in the 200."
Men's 400 Freestyle Relay -- The 400 freestyle relay squad comes into the NCAA meet with a qualifying time of 3:02.98, good for the 15th entering the championship. The order and personnel have not been set yet for this relay.
CCT -- "This is a fast and furious relay, with the order and personnel being up for grabs to the swimmers who are swimming the best. (Dan) will be in on the morning swim, but after that it will get interesting and the relay spots will go to whoever gets hot. I have been extremely honored to have the opportunity to coach these guys in this event."