MINNEAPOLIS — The Texas A&M men’s swimming and diving team’s divers and 200-yard freestyle relay shined on the first day of the 2011 NCAA Championships as the Aggies jumped to 10th place in the team standings on Thursday.
Junior diver Grant Nel led the way with a runner-up finish on the one-meter springboard with a score of 425.85. It was the highest individual finish at the NCAA Championships for a male Aggie diver, and A&M’s highest individual by a swimmer or diver since Riley Janes took second in the 100-yard backstroke in 2000.
“I felt really good out there,” Nel said. “I’m very happy with my training, and I give a big thanks to (dive coach) Jay (Lerew) and (strength and conditioning coach) Paul (Sealey). Those guys have done a great job getting me where I am. It’s such a privilege to dive here. Texas A&M has given me everything I need to grow as an athlete.”
Nel was joined in the Championship final of the one-meter dive by junior teammate Cam McLean, who missed the championship portion of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury. McLean took fifth with a score of 388.10. The Aggie divers combined to score 31 points on Thursday.
“Cameron did a great job coming off of shoulder surgery to reach the finals at the NCAA Championships,” Nel said. “It’s a credit to his hard work, and the training with Jay and Paul.”
The Aggies’ 200 free relay also made some noise by winning the consolation final with a season-best time of 1:17.71. The foursome of junior Amini Fonua, sophomore John Dalton, senior Balazs Makany and freshman Kyle Troskot touched wall with the second-fastest 200 free relay in school, just behind the school record of 1:17.63 set by the 2001 Aggies. It remains the only swimming school record not broke in the Jay Holmes/Doug Boyd era of Aggie swimming.
“I’m proud of the way we got up on the blocks and got it done,” said Holmes, who became A&M’s head swim coach in 2004-05. “This group of guys has been getting better and better every time they’ve hit the water since the conference meet. We left .9 on the blocks (on relay exchanges) in the prelims, so we felt like we should have been in the A final. I’m glad we were able to get it done in the consolation final because there is a big point difference between ninth and 10th.”
In preliminary action, the Aggies’ 400 medley relay just missed qualifying for the final with a time of 3:12.27 despite not having one of their normal backstrokers on the first leg. The Aggies’ complete medley relay didn’t qualify for the meet, so Makany stepped in at backstroke as A&M tried to scratch some points in the race. Makany, the school record holder in the 100 and 200 free, turned in a time of 48.34 on his leg, which ranks as the eighth-fastest 100 back in school history. A&M finished with splits of 53.19 by Fonua (breaststroke), 47.98 by freshman Henrik Lindau (butterfly) and 42.76 by Dalton (free).
The Aggies also turned in a pair of sub-20 times in the 50 free prelims, but did not qualify for evening swims. Dalton placed 26th in 19.73, while Troskot placed 34th in 19.87.