Junior Jake Epperson
Jan. 8, 2011
The 15th-ranked Tennessee swimming and diving team topped No. 10 Virginia 156-144, thanks to gutsy performances by a few Vols.
Trailing headed into the final diving break, the Vols were trying to recover from listless mid-meet swims. Senior co-captain Michael Wright provided the Vols with a much-needed shot in the arm. Wright helped UT sweep the boards, winning the 3-meter with a pool record 448.95-point score.
"Coming back to a dual meet after a huge invite--I just wasn't expecting much because I was kind of tired," Wright said. "But I just decided before the meet that I was going to go after it today. I thought about changing my list to be a little easier but (diving coach) Dave (Parrington) wouldn't let me. So I guess he knew what he was doing because I had a great day."
Then Tennessee led Virginia by two points with just two events left: the 200 individual medley and the 400 free relay. When the Vols needed someone to step up, junior Jake Epperson answered the call.
Epperson raced to a win in the 200 I.M., clocking in at one minute 50.8 seconds. Freshman Christoffer Wallin came in third with a one minute 51.29-second mark and the Vols were up by seven points with one event left.
"It was a pretty important event," Epperson said. "We had a meeting before that event and talked about how we needed someone to step up. I just had that mentality I needed to go out strong and try to win--thankfully it worked out and I got it. Once we had that momentum, I knew we had it."
Indeed the Vols did have it. The first three members Virginia's 400 free relay team--Matt McLean, David Karasek and Peter Geissinger--paced the field for the first 300 yards. But Oystein Hetland, Ricky Henahan and Samuel Rairden set up things up well for the Vols. Then Ryan Harrison dove into the pool. The Londonderry, Northern Ireland, native swam his first 50 yards in 21.07 seconds, nearly half a second better than the next competitor. His final 50 sealed the deal for the Big Orange, as Tennessee got the win.
"We went in there to win it," Harrison said. "I just stuck my head down and went for it. I really don't even remember half of it. When you are in that position, you just have to go out and come through you're your team. Our team did a great job. This win shows we have the experience to do some great things."
While the Vols finished in exciting form, the start and middle of the meet didn't quite meet head coach John Trembley's expectations. But the clutch performances are what stood out.
"The finish was spectacular, the start was just OK," Trembley said. "We had some very fine performances to start off the race. But after the first diving break we did not hit on any cylinders. But we came out fired up at the end. I was very surprised by Jake's win considering what we are putting him through in training. Ryan's swim was very special to end the meet and get out of here with a win."
Other winners include Ricky Henahan, taking first in the 100 back in 48.75 seconds. Freshman Samuel Rairden was close behind in second with a time of 49.65 seconds. Senior Brad Craig won the 100 breast with a 56.08-second mark. Epperson finished fourth in 56.93 seconds.
In the 50 free, co-captain Michael DeRocco won in 20.47 seconds followed closely by freshman Hetland in second place with a time of 20.56 seconds. Hetland also earned the first win of his collegiate career in the 100 fly in 48.56 seconds. DeRocco scored in third place with a 49.05-second time.
The Vols owned the diving boards against the Cavs. Wright also won the 1-meter with a first-place 380.55-point score. Ryan Helms finished second with 353.10 points and sophomore Brent Sterling took third place with 312.08 points. On the 3-meter, Helms and Sterling again finished second (400.28) and third (351.00), respectively.
"The way Mike has been diving, his performance today was no surprise," diving coach Dave Parrington said. "He is riding a wave of confidence after our invite earlier this week and his 3-meter was just spectacular. As a team we did an excellent job. I knew before the meet we needed to go 1-2-3 on both boards and we were able to do that today." Tennessee is off next week before playing host to Georgia and Indiana on Jan. 22.