March Madness is well underway. But it’s not taking place solely on the hardwood.
Starting Wednesday in Indianapolis, competition continues in the water as the No. 2 Texas Longhorns look to complete the trifecta and claim their third consecutive NCAA Championship.
This year’s group sends 15 swimmers and three divers to the championship meet, including multiple All-Americans, Olympians, school and national record holders.
And with 12 of the 19 members of the 2016 team making the trip again, the championship pedigree is well established. So are the memories of last year’s triumph.
“Just that entire meet for the whole experience was incredible,” sophomore Townley Haas said. “Everyone swam fast, and everyone had fun … I got to experience winning with (Coach) Eddie (Reese) and the team, and it was awesome.”
Haas, along with fellow Olympians junior Joseph Schooling and seniors Jack Conger and Clark Smith, captured national titles last year and will participate in the upcoming relays.
Senior Will Licon, owner of the national record in the 200-yard backstroke, will look to defend his individual titles in the 200-yard individual medley and backstroke.
Coming off of a record-setting performance in the Big 12 Championships last month, Schooling sets out to defend his individual titles in the 100 and 200-yard butterfly — events he is highly touted in.
Texas’ three divers, senior Mark Anderson and freshmen Grayson Campbell and Jacob Cornish, earned invitations to Indianapolis as they vie for the Longhorns’ 20th individual diving title.
Even with the impressive list of accomplishments by this Texas squad, it’s a meticulous step-by-step process for improvement under head coach Eddie Reese.
“Very simply, swimming faster is having an efficient stroke and moving your hand speed a little bit faster without losing efficiency,” Reese said. “And the training process for that starts in September, goes till now, and then it goes again in the summer.”
Reese, the only coach to win titles in four separate decades, has finished second or better eight times in the last 10 years.
No other swimming program boasts as many team titles and top-two finishes as Texas, but the team is always hungry for more.
Should the Longhorns manage to win a 13th championship, they will become the most decorated swimming program in the country — breaking the current tie of 12 championships with Michigan.
“We work all year to go to the NCAAs and compete with everybody there,” Reese said. The Longhorns’ quest for additional hardware begins Wednesday in Indianapolis.