You had to figure - and I did - going into the final day of the MAC Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, that much of the margin between second-place Missouri State and third-place Buffalo would be made up by UB's advantage in the diving well, where MSU posted no entries, and that the race for second would come down to the final day's swimming events alone.
At the end of the day, it came to the final two events, where UB topped Missouri State by .26 seconds (and two team points) in the 400 free relay after outscoring MSU 28-21 in the 200 butterfly. All told, Buffalo finished with 649 points to MSU's 634. Host Eastern Michigan won the meet by nearly 200 points. The second-place finish is the highest for UB since 2011-12, but Buffalo hasn't been lower than third since 2008, Andy Bashor's first season as coach.
Diving continued to be a pleasant surprise for the Bulls, as Troy Birdsall, Dan Roche, and Nick Rodriguez all made the 3 meter final and Derek Linebaugh and Kristian Santos the consolation. 17% of UB's points in the meet came from the diving.
The highlights in the pool today came in the 100 free and 200 breast, events where Bulls combined to total four swimmers in both final and consolation heats. Scott Huang and Garrett Clarke finished 2-4 in the breaststroke, while Itai De La Vega took the consolation to finish ninth. All three hit NCAA B Cuts. In the 100 free, Mason Miller and Antonio Lanzi each made the final, where they finished 6th and 7th*. In the consolation, Aaron Durrence, Martin Leigh, and Eric Jensen finished 9-11-13 to add 19 points to the team score.
*It's almost wild to think that a sixth-place finish in the MAC may be the most disappointed result of the week for the freshman Miller.
Charles Barry (3), Reid Zyniecki (4), and Bill Caffee (15) all earned points in the 1650, Hudson Carroll (9) and Jon Ekas (11) in the 200 back, and Zach Towers (5), Billy Patrum (9), and Andrew Cole-Goins (12) in the 200 butterfly. In fact, until the relay group of Lanzi, Durrence, Leigh, and Miller, I don't think any one swimmer earned points in multiple events Saturday as UB really showed off their depth.
All told, four school record fells this week, and De La Vega and Miller were named First Team All-MAC while Barry, Huang, Lanzi, and Zyniecki made the second team.
Caffee, Linebaugh, and Patrum graduating, UB will need a boost in freestyle and diving, but may be as well suited in 2017 to seriously challenge Eastern Michigan for a conference title as they've been in a long time.
Ed note- Caffee didn't swim last year, so he's got another
Speaking of Linebaugh, the season is not quite over, as divers have an intermediate competition between conference and national championships. The Zone Diving competitions will take place Monday through Wednesday of this coming week.