Men’s swimming and diving takes third place at MAC Championship
Buffalo edges out Southern Missouri in final race of the day
After the women’s swimming and diving team set a school record for the most points scored in a Mid-American Conference championship, the men’s team hoped to conquer its own tournament with similar success.
The Bulls took 16 swimmers and five divers to Geneva, Ohio to compete at the SPIRE Institute from Wednesday, March 4 – Saturday, March 7 for the MAC title. After a slow start on the final day of events, the Bulls were able to claim third place.
“I told the team it's great and it was fun and exciting to be in a fight for third place,” said head coach Andy Bashor. “Going into the meet, we wanted a chance to win it – that was our mindset. We had some difficult days, but we were able to bounce back and have a great last day.”
Junior Antonio Lanzi, sophomore Scott Huang, and freshman Oliver Patrouch made the All-MAC second team. This is Huang’s second time receiving this honor.
“They've done a great job this year and at this meet,” Bashor said. “It's about having the confidence and stepping up and competing against the best in the conference and these guys did a great job with that.”
At the end of the first day Missouri tallied 80 points, Eastern Michigan stood second overall with 68 points and Southern Illinois came in third with 64. The Bulls trailed behind with 60 points.
One of the highlights of the second day was Lanzi’s second place finish in the 50-meter freestyle. Lanzi set a school record with a time of 20.12 seconds. Patrouch followed closely behind with a time of 20.30, earning fourth place.
Buffalo rounded out the day finishing second in the 200-meter freestyle relay. Bashor was impressed with the team, featuring freshman Itai De La Vega and freshman Jon Ekas.
“It’s really cool how we had three freshmen and one junior in the event,” said Bashor. “[Lanzi] had a 20.08 leadoff, which is great. He started us out with a lot of power and speed.
Missouri dropped to second place by the end of day as Eastern Michigan took first with 266.50 points. Missouri stood in second with 236, Southern Illinois trailed with 219 and Miami took over the fourth spot with 189 points. Buffalo ended in fifth with 185.50 points.
The third day of the MAC Championship was initiated by the 400-meter individual medley, where Buffalo’s sophomore Charles Barry and junior Billy Patrum took fourth and fifth, respectively.
Buffalo’s best event of the third day was the 100-meter breaststroke. De La Vega set a school record, finishing in 54.20 seconds. Huang tied for fifth place.
The Bulls recaptured fourth place with 339 points, Southern Illinois stood ahead with 350 points, while Eastern Michigan came in second place with 487.50. Missouri was able to reclaim the lead, tallying 511.50 points.
The final day of the championship started with the longest race: the 1,650-meter freestyle. Sophomore Reid Zyniecki was Buffalo’s top finisher, coming in tenth with a time of 15:49.66.
Buffalo’s slow start to the final day had brought the team down to fifth place after completing 16 of the 20 events.
“We finished a lot better than what we started out as,” Bashor said.
The 200-meter breaststroke was one of the best races of the day, according to Bashor. Huang came in second place by less than .6 seconds. His 1:55.64 broke the school record that he set last year. Freshman Garrett Clarke finished seventh with a time of 1:59.32, his best time of the season.
“It was a phenomenal swim for [Huang] to go 1:55 – that’s going to put him in the mid-30’s overall in the country,” Bashor said. “And [Clarke] being a freshman and getting into the final eight is huge, the experience is really going to serve him well for future years.”
The Bulls were down to the final two events of the championship and were not satisfied with fourth place.
Buffalo began the 500-meter freestyle – its final race of the day – in fifth place. The team of Lanzi, Patrouch, De La Vega and Elas gave the Bulls a total of 517 points – enough to secure a third-place finish over Southern Illinois who accumulated 515 points.
“I’m happy and proud that we were able to pull out with third, but we're still not satisfied,” Bashor said. “We still have a lot of work to do. Third is good, but not where we want to be – we want championships.”
The men’s NCAA Championships is set to begin on March 26 in Iowa City, Iowa.
Bobby McIntosh is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com