March 28, 2013
|Men||1st Team||Hon. Mention|
|4. Southern California||100|
Sterling got the Vols on the scoreboard first, finishing 15th on the 1-meter springboard. He earned his first honorable mention All-America honors in his third trip to the NCAA Championships.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Vols got on the scoreboard with top-16 performances from relays and diving Thursday to open the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.
After day 1 of the three-day meet, the Vols are in 23rd place with 12 points. Michigan leads with 153 points, followed by California (123.5) and Auburn (112.5).
Senior Brent Sterling got the Vols' first points of the meet by taking 15th on the 1-meter springboard. Tennessee later grabbed valuable relay points -- worth twice the points of individual races -- by taking 13th in the 200-yard freestyle relay and 16th in the 400 medley relay.
Learning was the name of the game for the Vols all day with three of the Vols' seven swimmers Thursday made their NCAA debut. Freshman Vols Sean Lehane and Gustav Aberg Ledjstram contributed on the relays, and sophomore Tristan Slater swam his first race at the national meet, the prelims of the 200 IM (1:45.82, 35th).
"It was a pretty intense learning experience, but it was really good that we got second swims in both relays," Tennessee head coach Matt Kredich said. "Now we have some experience. With two days left, we want to build on that."
Sterling, the Vols' lone diver in the meet, earned honorable mention All-America honors for the first time in his career, placing 15th in the afternoon 1-meter springboard consolation with a six-dive score of 303.45.
He will compete in his best event, the 3-meter springboard, on Friday.
"I think that bodes well for him," Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington said. "He tends to be a little stronger on the 3 meter, so he'll have some good confidence."
Sterling, a Knoxville native, spent much of his Tennessee career behind UT diving greats: 2012 SEC Diver of the Year Ryan Helms and USA Diving national champion Michael Wright. The trio arrived at UT at the same time during the 2008-09 school year. With his two star teammates graduated, the fifth-year Sterling has stepped the role of being the Vols' primary scorer in the diving well.
As one of two active divers this season, Sterling has put together by far the best season of his career, with personal bests in all three diving events. He reached the finals in two events at the SEC Championships and qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third time in his career earlier this month in a closely contested zone championship.
"For Brent to come here in his third in NCAAs and a senior, to be able to step up and score points for the team, I couldn't be more more proud of him," Parrington said.
The Vols opened the evening finals with the 200 medley relay, swimming just over their prelim time to finish fifth in the consolation heat and 13th overall. The team of Ed Walsh, Gustav Aberg Ledjstram, Oystein Hetland and Samuel Rairden clocked in at 1:18.45.
"We had a couple cases of people swimming really well in the morning and not swimming as well at night," Kredich said. "We haven't quite put four good legs together yet, but it's coming."
Friday is shaping up to be a potentially big day for the Vols, both in individual and relay events. Rairden, a three-time silver medalist at the SEC Championships last month, is set to go in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. The Vols will also compete in the 200 medley relay and the 800 freestyle relay.
"Tomorrow is a big day for us," Kredich said. "We're looking at tomorrow with almost everyone having a swim under their belt. We've got a whole lot of opportunity to get second swims. The guys are ready and focused."