The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Men’s swimming breaks top 15

SMU mens swimming competes against the University of Texas.
John Schreiber
SMU men’s swimming competes against the University of Texas.

SMU men’s swimming competes against the University of Texas. (John Schreiber)

After two straight top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships, the SMU men’s swimming and diving team went into last weekend’s competition with the goal of cracking the top 15. With stellar performances from its relay teams, the Mustangs did just that, emerging in the 14th spot when the three-day event at Seattle’s Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center concluded on Saturday.

It was SMU’s highest finish at the NCAA’s since taking 12th in 2001.

“We’re moving on up, scoring more points and qualifying more relays,” said senior Alex Hetland, who joined the team three years ago. “It’s cool for the program to have some momentum.”

“[All NCAA Championships] are the same,” said head coach Eddie Sinnott, who has coached the team for 18 years. “They’re all high-intensity, action-packed, major stress. Our team handled it really well. We met our expectations.”

The weekend drama lasted until the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, when the Mustangs made the jump from 17th to 14th, thanks to a second-place finish in the consolation heat. Had the Mustangs finished third, they would have tied Virginia, which finished 15th .

Thomas Fadnes, Luka Vrtovec, Shane Milu and Nate Clark teamed for the last time this season and finished the event in 2:55.14, just over one-tenth of a second ahead of third-place Indiana. Sinnott said he celebrated when he saw Clark, who swam the last leg, touch the wall.

“The last event for a lot of teams is really critical,” said Sinnott. “It was our last chance to get points. We were 17th behind Ohio State, Miami and Virginia, then we finished second [and passed them]…It was hugely exciting.”

SMU’s relay teams scored the vast majority of the team’s 71 points.

The 200 medley relay team of Pontus Renholm, Fadnes, Vrtovec and Hetland blazed through Friday’s event by setting a new school-record time (1:25.95) in the preliminaries. The team slowed nearly a half-second in the finals but still managed to finish sixth, the highest finish by an SMU relay team over the weekend.

Later on Friday, Fadnes teamed with Maverick Smalley, Clark and Milu to finish 14th in the 800 freestyle relay.

Fadnes also swam the second leg of the 200 freestyle relay on the meet’s opening day, guiding the Mustangs to an 11th place finish in the finals. Milu started the event, followed by Fadnes, Vrtovec and Renholm.

“Everybody did the job,” said Sinnott. “Since it was pretty much all relays, it was really a team effort.”

Fadnes, who competed in four relay events throughout the competition, was the only SMU swimmer to be named an All-American in three events: the 200 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay and 800 freestyle relay.

Renholm (200 medley relay); Vrtovec (200 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay); Clark (400 freestyle relay, 800 freestyle relay); Milu (400 freestlye relay, 800 freestyle relay), Hetland (200 medley relay) and Smalley (800 freestyle relay) were also named All-Americans in the relay events.

“This was a true team effort,” said Sinnott. “We traveled eight swimmers and seven were given All-American honors. It was pretty fun.”

Hetland was the only SMU swimmer to place in an individual competition and was named as an All-American for his effort in the 100 breaststroke. He finished the event in 53.18, placing sixth.

“I was personally hoping to do a little better,” said Hetland, who will compete in the World Short Course Championship in Manchester, England, April 9-13. “I was ranked third going into the event and was hoping to finish in the top three. You have goals and expectations every meet. Sometimes you meet them; sometimes you don’t.”

A pair of experienced swimmers met their expectations over the weekend, setting career-best times in individual events.

Clark, a junior, swam the 500 freestyle in 4:20.99, tying his personal best, and finished 21st on Thursday. He touched in at 1:36.36 in the 200 freestyle preliminaries to break his previous career best by three-tenths of a second.

Renholm broke personal records in the 200 backstroke (1:45.10) and the 100 backstroke (47.58). He finished 18th in the 100 backstroke preliminaries, narrowly missing the finals.

Renholm, a sophomore, and Clark will join the team again next season, but the Mustangs will be forced to part ways with valuable seniors Hetland, Milu and Brett Denham. Milu and Denham walked on to the team.

“I’ve come way farther than I’ve expected,” said Milu. “I never thought we’d come this far. I maybe would’ve hoped for the team to be top 15 or top 10, but I was never thinking that I would’ve been a part of it.”

The Mustangs hope to make the leap into the top 10 next season, as they return all but five swimmers from this year’s roster.

Sinnott said the losses of the seniors will hurt, but he expects his team to be improved in the 2008-2009 season.

“I look at the NCAA’s [teams] in groups of five,” said Sinnott. “We’ve been in that fourth group of five; now we’re in that third group of five. Right now we’re plotting a path to get us into that second group of five.”

Sinnott’s Mustangs, who finished in the top 10 in eight of his first 10 seasons at the helm, have won 12 straight Conference USA championships.

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