The Final Heat: Georgia heads to the NCAA Championship
By Jaylon Thompson
ATHENS– Georgia men’s swim team is no longer satisfied with coming close at the NCAA Championship meet.
The Bulldogs want to win it all. Next Thursday, they will have their chance at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Iowa City, IA.
“We are hoping to bring home some hardware,” Fink said. “We are not so worried on what everyone else is doing, but just focusing on how we can be the best we can be this week.”
Last season, the Georgia men’s swimming team was satisfied with its performance at the NCAA Championships. The team had a top-five finish for only the second time in program history. Senior swimmer Nicolas Fink finished second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 breaststroke. Junior Chase Kalisz won the 400 individual medley and came in second in the 200 individual medley. However, this season is different and the Bulldogs have been consistent all season.
The Bulldogs have had a strong regular season. Georgia recently finished second in the Southeastern Conference and had a great performance at the SEC Championships.
The team won seven events. Kalisz’s victories in the 200 and 400 individual medley highlighted an overall team effort. Given their SEC performance, senior team captain Jared Markham believes the team can contend at the NCAA’s.
“We are looking to improve from last year and at least break into the top-three,” Markham said. “We kind of want to shock some people around the country who are underplaying our talents.”
Heading into the NCAA’s, the team is filled with experienced swimmers. Kalisz has had an excellent season that culminated in a Commissioner’s trophy in conference play. He is considered one of the favorites to repeat as the NCAA winner in the 400 medley.
Junior Matias Koski earned an A cut in the 500 freestyle, which is highest grouping for swimmers in a particular event. Fink has been phenomenal as he owns the nation’s fastest times in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Going to the NCAA Championships will be bittersweet for him as it will be his last time in the water.
Fink, a senior from Morristown, N.J., is still in search of an individual title. This will be his fourth time at the NCAA’s and maybe his best chance at first place. He is considered the overall favorite to in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes from a statistical standpoint. Being the odds on favorite in the event puts a lot of pressure on Fink to win. However, he doesn’t dwell on the added pressure as he just enjoys the competing at the highest level.
“You just got to have fun with it,” Fink said. “If you put too much pressure on the championships, it just won’t be enjoyable.”
The team takes on the mentality Fink as its leader. The swimmers vow to be loose and just enjoy the experience of performing on the national stage. They plan on living in the moment and focusing solely on swimming. The team understands that supreme focus on the little things is needed to succeed.
“The top three things we need to work on is race rehearsal, visualization, and keeping a positive attitude,” Koski said.
The Bulldogs appear to have enough talent to be in the upper echelon of college swimming. By paying attention to detail, the team hopes to be victorious. With confidence and focus, Georgia appears primed to improve and contend for a national championship.