Gamecocks Set For NCAA Men's Championships
March 27, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Five swimmers are set to compete for South Carolina this week at the 2013 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis, Ind.
Junior Michael Flach will swim in three individual events for the Gamecocks, while juniors Gerard Rodriguez, Alex Fitton and Jay Warner and freshman Marwan El Kamash will join Flach to swim the relay events Thursday through Saturday at the IU Natatorium. After missing out on last year's NCAA Championships, the Gamecocks are looking to bounce back with a top-25 showing in Indianapolis.
"This is the weekend you work for all year long," South Carolina head coach McGee Moody said. "You work the entire year to go to the SEC Championships and give it your best chance at qualifying, and now we are there. This is our season. We've got a great group of guys going out there, and I know they are ready to go fast. They are excited about the opportunity to race against the best in the country."
Flach, who is making his third career NCAA Championships appearance, has had a stellar return to collegiate swimming after redshirting last season to focus on the U.S. Olympic Trials. He recorded a team-high 12 first place finishes during the regular season and won silver in the 500 freestyle at the SEC Championships with a school-record time of 4:15.32. He also finished fourth in both the 200 freestyle and 200 butterfly at the SEC Championships. On the national scene, Flach currently has the seventh fastest time in the country in the 500 freestyle (4:15.32) and the 10th fastest time in the 200 butterfly (1:43.42).
A native of Annandale, Va., Flach earned his first career All-America honor at the 2011 NCAA Championships as he swam to a 15th-place finish in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:21.66. He also finished 37th in the 200 freestyle and 31st in the 200 butterfly that year. In his first trip to the NCAA Championships in 2010, Flach finished 33rd in the 200 freestyle, 27th in the 500 freestyle and 29th in the 200 butterfly.
"He's got big goals for himself," Moody said of Flach. "If you ask him, he wants to go to Indianapolis and win. He's put himself in position to go do that this year in a couple of events."
Fitton, Rodriguez, Warner and El Kamash are all making their first trip to the NCAA Championships. The Gamecocks' 800 freestyle relay team of Rodriguez, Flach, El Kamash and Fitton earned the invitation to the Indianapolis by swimming a school-record and NCAA automatic qualifying time of 6:23.99 at the SEC Championships, which is the 19th fastest time in the country. South Carolina also set school records in the 200 medley, 400 medley and 200 freestyle relays at the SEC Championships and are eligible to swim those events as well this week. The Gamecocks haven't had a relay team invited to the NCAA Championships since the 800 freestyle relay team qualified in 2007. That team finished 11th in the event to earn All-America honors.
"This is a pretty level-headed group of guys," Moody said. "They've been on big stages before and swam against most of these guys before. The hard thing about relays is you can't depend on just one guy. You have to put four guys together, and they have to be as fast as they can be. We know we have our work cut out for us. Everybody is swimming fast. Our goal is to be faster than everybody else, and I think we are in a pretty good place."
This is the 29th year the Gamecocks have had at least one student-athlete compete at the NCAA Men's Championships. South Carolina has 12 top-25 finishes all-time at the NCAA Championships, with the last being a 20th-place showing in 2004. The Gamecocks' best finish was a 10th-place showing in 1987 after winning the Metro Conference Championship. During that year's championships, South Carolina had All-America performances from nine individuals and two relays.
Preliminaries will begin each day at 11 a.m., and finals will be held each night at 7. Live results will be available here. A live stream of Thursday's preliminaries and finals and Friday and Saturday's preliminaries will be available here. Friday and Saturday's finals sessions will be carried live on ESPN3.com.
2013 NCAA Men's Championships Schedule Thursday Prelims - 11 a.m. ET - 200 Freestyle Relay - 500 Freestyle - 200 Individual Medley - 50 Freestyle - 400 Medley Relay - 1-Meter Diving