After finishing in fourth place each of the last three years, the NC State men’s swimming team will travel to Austin, Texas this week for the NCAA Championships, looking to continue on its recent success.
The Wolfpack men will head to NCAAs coming off their fifth straight ACC title, with a fifth-straight top-10 national finish likely. Eleven swimmers will compete in individual events for the Pack at NCAAs, headlined by junior Coleman Stewart and senior Andreas Vazaios.
NC State captured five event titles at NCAAs in 2018 en route to its fourth-place finish, and brings most of the swimmers involved in those national titles back to the championship meet this year. Stewart and Vazaios both claimed individual gold medals last year, and will look to defend their top spot in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard butterfly, respectively.
The Wolfpack also claimed gold medals in both the 800- and 400-yard freestyle relays, with three of the four swimmers from each relay team returning. NC State’s other national title came from Anton Ipsen, who graduated following the 2018 season, in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Stewart looks to be a frontrunner to defend his 100 back title, as he enters the 2019 field with the fastest seed time in the event. At 44.36, Stewart’s entry time is a full quarter of a second faster than the rest of the competitors. Senior Noah Hensley and Vazaios also qualified for the 100 back, with Hensley seeded 15th and Vazaios at 25th.
In the 100-yard butterfly, Stewart should compete for the podium as well. Stewart’s seed time of 45.09 is fifth-fastest, and he could be joined by Hensley in the final of the event. Hensley is seeded ninth with a time of 45.33. Freshman Nyls Korstanje and senior James Bretscher will also compete in the 100 fly, with Korstanje entering with the 20th-fastest time and Bretscher at 22nd.
Stewart and Hensley will also swim in the 200-yard backstroke, where Stewart again has a shot at the podium. Stewart is seeded fourth with an entry time of 1:39.10, while Hensley’s 1:41.30 is 29th.
Vazaios swam the 200 fly in 1:38.60 at last year’s NCAAs, which is far and away faster than anyone’s seed time this year. He is seeded eighth in the 2019 field with a time of 1:41.03. There is a lot of talent in the 200 fly field, but Vazaios should still compete for the podium. Vazaios will be joined by Bretscher in the 200 fly, who is seeded 16th.
The 200-yard individual medley will also provide Vazaios a chance at a podium finish, as the Greek swimmer is seeded fourth with a time of 1:41.30.
Senior Justin Ress will also feature in multiple events for the Pack, as the freestyle sprinter will compete in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. Ress was an All-American in both events last season, and will likely garner those honors again. In the 50 free, Ress is seeded eighth with an entry time of 19.14. In the 100 free, he enters with the 16th-fastest time, 42.25.
Ress will be joined by Korstanje in the 50 free, who has the 24th-fastest entry time. In the 100 free, senior Jacob Molacek is seeded 20th.
The Wolfpack will have a big void to fill in the loss of Ipsen in the long-distance freestyle events, and sophomore Eric Knowles looks ready to take that role. Knowles is one of three Pack swimmers in the 500-yard freestyle, where his entry time of 4:12.13 is fifth-fastest in the field. He will be joined by junior Jack McIntyre and sophomore Gil Kiesler, who are both seeded in the upper-20s.
In the 1,650 free, Knowles is the Pack’s second-best swimmer with an entry time of 14:46.85, 17th-best in the field. McIntyre will look to compete for All-American status in the mile swim, as his 14:41.73 is 10th-best heading in.
Knowles’ other individual event will be the 400-yard individual medley, where he could compete for All-American status. He is seeded 13th headed into the meet. The Pack’s other individual swimmer will be senior Daniel Graber, who took the 31st and final spot in the 100-yard breaststroke.
The Wolfpack will also look to build on its recent relay success, as NC State has won at least one relay at NCAAs in three straight seasons. Last year, the Pack captured two relay golds, and returns three of the four members of both relay teams; graduated Olympian Ryan Held swam in both.
NC State has a top-six recorded time in four of the five relay events coming into NCAAs, with the second-fastest time in the country in both the 200- and 400-yard medley relays. The Pack looks poised to compete for yet another relay title.
The NCAA Championships will kick off Wednesday night and wrap up Saturday night from the Lee and Joel Jamail Texas Swimming Center.