Believe it or not, Swimming and Diving starts their season next weekend. In Florida, no less.
It's one of the longer seasons among UB's 18 teams, and is oddly stretched out thanks to a yearly off stretch that lasts from mid-November to early January. Like Cross Country, and a bit like Track and Field, the only meet that really matters is the MAC Championship, which takes place the final week of February for the Women and the first week of March for the Men.
I could probably run the previews in fewer, longer posts, but that doesn't fit my schedule well, so instead there will be five posts, separated by stroke and discipline, before next Friday. First up is Men's Freestyle and Butterfly.
Antonio Lanzi is the clear #1 here, and he's plenty fast beyond the shortest events. In last year's MAC Championships he made the finals of the 50 (T2nd), 100 (7th), and 200 free (7th). Over the course of the year he cracked the NCAA 'B' Cut in the 50 free, and was a regular in UB's free relays and the freestyle anchor in the medley relays.
Itai De La Vega is primarily a breaststroker, but dabbles in the 50 free, a test of pure anaerobic speed. He was 15th in that event in the MAC Championships last year. Jon Ekas is another guy who focuses on another stroke (back), but offers short speed in the sprints. Turning to the longer sprints, Martin Leigh shows up as one of UB's best in the 200 and should appear in plenty of 100s this year.
Eric Jensen (primarily swims back) and Aaron Durrence provide depth in these sprints. Patrum and Cole-Goins are listed at 200, but I'll be talking about them much more at other spots.
UB lost few pieces in general from last year, and among this group only Eric Forrester to graduation. He was a deep depth guy. Matt Bitara should not have graduated, but is also missing. I think he's still a student at UB; maybe his bio (pre-dental I think) major caught up with him. Anyway, he was 13th in the 100 free at MACs in 2014
The biggest loss - to transfer - is Oliver Patrouch, who's now a sophomore at Indiana. Patrouch excelled in both the fly and the free, and nearly matched Lanzi last year, finishing 4th in the MAC in the 50 free and 8th in the 100. It's a huge hit to a team that was generally weak at freestyle (comparatively) last year.
Fortunately, even though this group only claims one incoming freshman, he's a flat-out stud. Mason Miller isn't 18 for two more months, but that 45.27 100 you see above was good enough for fourth at the Ohio State Championship last year. Read this SwimSwam piece from his commitment and get excited. Already a Junior National Qualifier in the 50 and 100, he could in a college training program get faster quickly.
UB's got a handful of versatile swimmers all on pretty even ground as you get into the longer races. Billy Patrum and Reid Zyniecki went back to back at 11-12 in the 500 at the MAC Champs. You'll also see them in Individual Medleys and in Patrum's case some butterfly. Zyniecki and Callum Liddiard were similarly 10-12 in the 1650 at the Championships.
The most intriguing name here is Bill Caffee, who last swam for the Bulls in 2013-14 and instantly steps in as the fastest miler -- fast enough to have placed fourth at last year's championships. Expect to see him regularly in the 500, too; without looking it up I can't imagine Lanzi appeared in more than one or two 500s despite that time, and the re-addition of Caffee should allow him to clear even that.
Puzset and Towers we'll talk about in the next section.
New guys down below, so we'll start with Hudson Carroll, who's even better in the back but was good enough for 13th at MAC Champs in the 100 fly. Here we find Andrew Cole-Goins' wheelhouse. He's higher in the pecking order at 100 (14th MAC) than 200 (16th) but will see plenty of time in both.
Billy Patrum makes another appearance. He was nearly as fast as the missing Matt Bitara last year, finishing 10th in the 200 at MACs. Charles Barry also didn't compete at the 100, but put good times down in the 200.
Missing are the aforementioned Patrouch, who had hit an NCAA B Cut in the 100 along with a third-place MAC finish, Forrester (16th), and Bitara, who was good for 6th last year in the 200 fly at MACs, UB's top finisher (though Patrum did swim faster in the consolation).
There are more freshmen here. Mason Miller I already told you about. He's better here than he is in the free and is the reigning Ohio State Champion and a Junior National Qualifier in the 100 fly. Zach Towers is also a qualifier in the 200 fly, and Coach Bashor has intimated we may see him in some freestyle events. Tudor Puszet is the reigning Welsh National Champion in the 100 and 200 fly.
This is the first of a five-part preview leading up to Swimming and Diving's season opener in Florida next Friday. Upcoming previews:
Women's breaststroke, backstroke, and IM - 26 September
Women's butterfly and freestyle - 29 September
Men's breaststroke, backstroke, and IM - 30 September
Men's and Women's diving - 1 October