On the plane ride back to Austin from the NCAA championships in Ohio last year, Texas was not sitting back and enjoying its victory.
Instead, the Longhorns were planning how they were going to defend their title.
“We were coming back early morning on Monday and they were trying to figure out how they could equal their points total without getting anybody new on the team, without the incoming freshmen,” said Texas coach Eddie Reese.
They worked harder and got faster.
The Longhorns are ranked No. 4 in the nation, but the team is very different from last year. Last year’s senior class included two Olympians, Ricky Berens and Dave Walters.
“We’re a totally different team when you graduate people every year,” Reese said. “It’s almost like there’s no defending champion. The only defending champion is the name.”
Reese believes the team’s depth will help them this weekend at the University of Minnesota.
“Normally if you get one person in the top eight, you’ve done well,” Reese said. “But we’ve got a couple of events — we could get three or four in the top eight.”
Last year, as a freshman, Austin Surhoff led the Longhorns with 40 points and is the tournament’s defending 200 individual medley champion. He, along with the rest of the sophomores, look to prove themselves to the upperclassmen.
“You can’t aim for points in this meet,” Reese said. “But I do believe that Austin will score more points this year than he did last year.”
Nick D’Innocenzo, who did not score any points at last year’s NCAA meet, is the top seed in the 200 breaststroke, ranks eighth nationally in the 200 individual medley and sixth in the 400 individual medley.
“They know what they did last and they know how to get better,” Reese said. “Nick has just done a great job. He’s working hard. Every time he has a good time, somebody says, ‘Well Nick has worked for that,’ and he has.”
Although he did not qualify the meet last year, Dax Hill is prepared to prove himself and has the fourth fastest time in the 200 freestyle and is ranked 11th in the 100 freestyle.
Sophomores Cole Cragin and Michael McBroom will also be competing.
The sophomores are bound to make an impact, but soon-to-be four-time NCAA championship participants Bryan Collins and Scott Spann look to end their college careers with a second national title. Spann is a three-time runner-up for the breaststroke events in the NCAA championships.
“We’re not the same team that won it last year,” Reese said. “The goal every year is to work harder and go faster. If everybody goes faster, then you will do well.”