Texas men’s swimming falls short of gaining fifth consecutive NCAA title

Liliana Hall

Texas head coach Eddie Reese is the only college swim coach to win four NCAA titles in four different decades. But for now, four will have to do.

Heading into the 2019 NCAA men’s swimming and diving championship, Reese hoped to add one more to the list but Texas ultimately fell short.

“I know we didn’t get what we wanted tonight but the whole year has been the greatest year any group of people have ever put together,” Reese said. “Anytime you make the top 16 in the NCAA, it is a credit to the kind of work (you) do. This is the toughest meet in the world. It is crazy fast and it is not slowing down.”

At the conclusion of Friday’s events at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Texas finished in second place behind University of California-Berkeley with 329 points, picking up eight All-American honors. Senior Townley Haas faced the greatest upset of the night for Texas, losing the 200-yard-freestyle, killing his three-year streak in the event.

Freshman Drew Kibler led the UT contingent in the 200-yard freestyle in third while senior Jeff Newkirk finished in seventh. Senior John Shebat and junior Ryan Harty went four and five, respectively, in the 100-yard backstroke, making it Shebat's third-straight All-American honor in the event.

By the end of the preliminaries on Saturday, Texas had a lot of ground to cover. But the fourth-ranked Longhorns were not able to pull it off, ultimately coming in second behind California by 85 points.

Sophomore Chris Yeager kicked off the night in a rough 1650-yard-freestyle where he finished in seventh place with a time of 14:47.44. Texas began to pick up the heat with the 200-yard backstroke. Sophomore Austin Katz and Shebat went head-to-head in the heat before Shebat touched three-hundredths of a second faster than Katz. With a time of 1:36.42, Shebat finished with the seventh-fastest time in NCAA history.

“Our number one goal over winning a national title was to get closer as a team because (when) you get closer as a team, these meets become a lot easier to handle,” Shebat said. “You have bad swims (but) that is just a part of NCAAs. It is a meet like no other but we were ready.”

Freshman Daniel Krueger competed in the final for the 100-yard-freestyle and finished in fourth with a time of 41.56. Haas, along with Kibler, did not qualify for the championship in the 100-yard freestyle. But Haas finished out his last run at the NCAAs with Texas in first place of the consolation final with a time of 41.96. Kibler finished in eighth.

But on their last leg of the championship, Krueger, Shebat, senior Tate Jackson and Haas finished out the night with a new pool record in the 400-yard freestyle relay. After a split time of 41.73 and a second-place touch from Krueger, Shebat pulled Texas ahead of Indiana and Haas finished the race in first place with the time of 2:45.12.

“The relay was kind of the icing on the cake, just finishing out what was our best session of the meet,” Haas said. “We held it together and we wanted to end it right there. We all fought pretty tough.”