|Men's ACC Championships (Day Four)|
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Virginia Tech men’s swimming and diving teams held off a late push by NC State on Saturday night, as the H2Okies captured the first Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship in program history.
After the divers racked up a lead in last week’s diving events and the H2Okies entered the final day of competition leading by just eight points, Tech used a deep lineup to fight off a hard-charging Wolfpack team, eventually capturing the victory with 1264.5 points, more than 38 points ahead of NC State. North Carolina tallied 995 points in third place, while in-state rival Virginia took fourth with 972.
“It feels incredible,” Head Coach Ned Skinner said. “It was one heck of a showdown between NC State and Virginia Tech, and it is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. For our student-athletes to experience something of this magnitude is fantastic. They will never forget something like this.”
Junior Jake Ores started the evening with a bronze medal in the 1650 freestyle, clocking a 15:09.14 to extend the H2Okies’ lead early on the final day of competition. Freshman Robert Owen (15:20.26) and sophomore Michal Szuba (15:22.70) clocked a pair of NCAA “B” cut times to take ninth and 11th, respectively, in the event.
Junior Collin Higgins followed that event up with a bronze medal of his own in the 200 backstroke, recording an NCAA “A” cut with a school-record time of 1:41.28. Owen, fresh off the 1650 free, took home an eighth-place finish with an NCAA “B” cut time of 1:44.94, while freshman Zach Switzer grabbed 12th with a 1:44.55 in the finals.
NC State took the lead from the H2Okies in the 100 free, as the Wolfpack scored nine swimmers across the three final heats. Sophomore Joe Bonk moved up a spot from morning in the event, clocking a 43.57 to take a crucial seventh-place finish in the event.
Tech took the lead back for the final time in the 200 breaststroke, as junior Harrison Cefalo earned a bronze medal with a school-record time of 1:55.54 to lead the way. Junior Owen Burns (1:56.64) and freshman Brandon Fiala (1:57.64) took 11th and 13th, respectively, while senior Emmett Dignan clocked a career-best 1:56.96 to win the C-Final and finish 17th.
Junior Morgan Latimer took home the highest individual finish of the day in the 200 butterfly, breaking his own school record with an NCAA “A” cut time of 1:42.58 to take the silver medal and put the meet out of reach.
Freshman Jan Switkowski (1:44.67) and junior Nick Tremols (1:44.75) finished within moments of each other in 10th and 11th, respectively, while junior James Crabb took 19th with a time of 1:46.89.
With the championship clinched if the H2Okies simply finished the 400 freestyle relay, the team of Bonk, sophomore Lucas Bureau, Switkowski and Burns rolled to another school record, touching the wall in 2:54.28 to take home the bronze medal and give Tech the 38-point margin of victory.
Of the H2Okies’ 1264.5 points, 205 came from last week’s diving events, as senior Ryan Hawkins’ pair of bronze medals proved crucial to Tech’s victory. NC State scored just 23 points across the three diving events.
“NC State chipped away at the lead all night,” Skinner said. “But it was those diving points that made all the difference.”
The ACC Championship marked the H2Okies first conference title since the 1999-2000 season, Tech’s final year in the Atlantic 10 Conference. This is Virginia Tech's 17th conference championships in all sports since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004.
The H2Okie divers will be back in action next week, as the Christiansburg Aquatic Center plays host to the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships on Mar. 10-12. The qualifying swimmers and divers will then hit the pool at the Men’s NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas on Mar. 27-29.
For updates on Virginia Tech swimming & diving, follow the Hokies on Twitter Follow @VT_SwimDive