March 29, 2013
|Men||1st Team||Hon. Mention|
|4. Southern California||212|
Sterling did not make the finals on the 3-meter springboard, but he did take home perhaps the most important prize Friday: the NCAA Elite 89 Award. The honor is given to the competitor with the highest GPA, and Sterling was recognized with a 3.98.
Rairden helped the Vols to the podium in a swimming event for the first time in years. He led off the seventh-place 800 freestyle relay with a 200 split of 1:33.95, the third-fastest time in UT history and a personal best.
INDIANAPOLIS -- In 6 minutes, 21.87 seconds, the Vols turned around a disappointing day into something special for finish Friday's competition at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
After missing the evening finals in their other events -- including a disqualification on their first relay -- Tennessee capped off the day by earning a trip to the podium with a seventh-place finish in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
The All-American team of Samuel Rairden, Gustav Aberg Lejdstrom, Sean Lehane and Tristan Slater were all smiles on the podium after keeping pace with the leaders in the last race of the session. Their performance gives the Vols momentum heading into the meet's final day.
"I'm really proud of these guys for being Tennessee men and standing up and competing tonight after a rough morning," Tennessee head coach Matt Kredich said. "They didn't hang their heads. They picked it up and got it done tonight."
The 24 points from the relay bumped the Vols four places into 19th in the team standings. Michigan leads with 336 points, followed by California (301.5). Tennessee finished 22nd last year.
Senior Brent Sterling highlighted the Vols' day by earning the NCAA Elite 89 Award for the second consecutive season. The honor is given to the competitor in the meet with the highest GPA, and the fifth-year senior diver is wrapping up his degree in biochemistry and molecular biology with a 3.98 GPA.
"He's the epitome of a student-athlete," Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington said. "It was an honor to see him get that award for the second time in the last two years."
The Vols endured a rough morning in the preliminaries, starting with the opening swim of the day. The 200-yard medley relay team, perhaps the Vols' fastest relay team, was disqualified after an early takeoff on the final exchange.
In individual preliminary races: sophomore Tristan Slater placed 24th in the 400 IM (3:46.92); junior Renato Prono was 32nd in the 100 breaststroke (54.14); and in the 100 backstroke, Samuel Rairden was 25th (47.09) and Sean Lehane was 31st (47.42).
Sterling missed on a few dives in the middle of his list to put him out of the running on the 3-meter springboard. He finished the prelims in 27th with a score of 318.90.
"It was a tough day on the boards for Brent," Parrington said. "He had four solid dives and two that let him down, and at this level of competition, you just can't miss dives like that. I know he gave it his all and I couldn't be more proud of that."
Kredich said it was a bitter pill for the team to swallow when they arrived back at IU Natatorium for the evening session and had to watch a session full of races without the Tennessee orange and white on the blocks.
"We watched time after time, event after event, where we felt like we could've had people get in there and compete, but we weren't there," Kredich said.
The Vols had one point-scoring opportunity in the evening session with the 800 freestyle relay and made the most of the timed final.
Rairden, the busiest Vol in the meet, led Tennessee off with a 1:33.95 split, the third-fastest 200 freestyle time in program history. The rest of the relay team kept the Vols in the hunt for a top-eight finish, and Slater eventually touched the wall in 6:21.87.
"The 800 relay showed some Tennessee pride," Kredich said. "Sam Rairden led off with a spectacular 200 freestyle, one of the fastest in UT history. Then three other guys, Gustav, Sean and Tristan, put together professional swims in the heat of battle.
"It's such good momentum going into tomorrow where we have big swims and big opportunities."