Dec. 7, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Two years removed from his standout collegiate career at Tennessee, Brad Craig still enjoys a home pool advantage at Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.
Cheered on by the Knoxville crowd and the Tennessee team along the pool deck, Craig captured his first national championship as a professional swimmer Saturday to finish the AT&T Winter National Championships.
The former SEC champion took the lead from the start and never looked back, winning the 200-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 52.99 seconds.
After climbing out of the pool, Craig was almost immediately swarmed by coaches and team members in celebration. Now swimming for the Tennessee Aquatics club team, Craig certainly provided the highlight of the meet for the UT squad.
Naturally, he wore his Tennessee warmup on the medal stand.
"It's awesome training day in and day out with those guys and girls now with the combined program," Craig said. "It's a nice change being back in the team environment and having all them behind me. I had some friends from out of town to come in and watch."
Knoxville is still the home base for Craig, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich. He lettered at Tennessee from 2008-11, notably winning back-to-back SEC titles in the 200 breaststroke as a junior and senior. He stayed in town to train for the 2012 Olympic Trials. After missing the U.S. team, Craig said Tennessee head coach Matt Kredich encouraged him to continue swimming competitively.
These days, Craig is still a fixture at the Tennessee pool. He's even kept up his participation at the team's annual Orange and White Intrasquad Meet in October. He doesn't know if his six meet appearances is a record, but guesses he's close.
"The way things are going after the past summer and again at this meet, I'm still taking a year at a time, but I'm having fun and still dropping time," Craig said. "As long as I can keep doing it and have a blast doing it, I don't see why not."
The last six months have certainly been productive as far as the trophy case has been concerned. He was named to the USA Swimming National Team after wrapping up a speedy summer on the circuit and U.S. Open.
On the whole, the weekend was a successful one for Craig. On Friday, he earned the bronze medal in the 100 breaststroke and also reached the B Final in the 200 medley relay.
"Over the past year and a half, my 100 was starting to get better and better," Craig said. "My 200 wasn't doing as well. This past fall, as soon as the U.S. Open was over, we hit training hard and started working on a bunch of different things. That hard work is starting to pay off and it's starting to show."
Seven Tennessee swimmers qualified for the evening finals Saturday.
Junior Molly Hannis, who took bronze Friday in the 100 breaststroke, just missed the championship final in the 200 breaststroke. She made the most of her chances in the B final, however, rallying from behind in the final 50 yards to post her best time of the season in 2:10.45.
Freshman Heather Lundstrom also won her B final race. She reached the wall first in the consolation race in 1:56.60, the third-fastest time in program history.
Sophomore Faith Johnson recorded the top individual finish for Tennessee on the night. She placed eighth in the 100 freestyle in 49.12.
200 Breast: 1. Brad Craig, Tennessee Aquatics, 1:52.99
400 Free Relay: 7. Tennessee (Rairden, Tillman, Sadsad, Percy) 2:54.78
1650 Free: 20. Morgan Dickson, UT, 16:43.13
200 Back: 11. Lauren Driscoll, UT, 1:56.16
200 Breast: 9. Molly Hannis, UT, 2:10.45.
400 Free Relay: 5. Tennessee (Johnson, McNeilis, Griffith, Gendron) 3:17.15