Bulls Eye Second Crown at MAC Men's Championships
BUFFALO, NY – As the 2012 Mid-American Conference Men's Swimming and Diving Championships begin, the University at Buffalo finds itself in a position it has never been in before, that of defending champion. The Bulls won their first-ever MAC crown last season and look to take a second title at this weekend's championship meet, held at Miami's Corwin Nixon Aquatic Center in Oxford, OH.
The Bulls only won three individual titles at last year's meet in Carbondale, IL, but they also won all five of the MAC's relay races, all in school and/or MAC record times and with most of their scorers returning from last season's squad, the Bulls look to be the favorite to repeat.
UB's freestylers are a main source of the Bulls' strength in 2012. Defending MAC champions Jared Heine and Matt Hogan head the list. Heine claimed last year's 50- and 100-yard freestyle titles, setting a school record in the 100-yard event. Hogan won the 200-yard freestyle title in 2011, in a school record time, and finished second in the 200-yard individual medley, in another school record and was third to Heine in the 100-yard freestyle at the league meet. This season, the Bulls have three of the league's five fastest swimmers in the 50- and 100-yard events. Mike Dugan is second in the MAC in the 50-yard freestyle (20.60) while Heine and Hogan turned in 20.96 times during the regular season. In the 100-yard freestyle, Hogan is second at 44.60, Dugan is third at 45.55 and Heine is fifth at 46.02. Hogan has also already established an NCAA B cut time in the 200-yard freestyle, 1:37.95, set at this season's Zippy Invitational in Akron, OH, and is third in the 200-yard individual medley at 1:42.84, four-tenths of a second off the pace.
Backstroke specialists Matt Schwippert and Phil Aronica should also find themselves near the top of the podium this weekend. Schwippert was runner-up to Eastern Michigan's Jacob Hansen in both the 100- and 200-yard distances last season and won the 200-yard title in 2010. This season, he ranks fourth in the MAC in both distances, setting top times of 49.66 for the 100 and 1:48.73 for the 200 at the Zippy Invitational. Aronica ranks second in the MAC in the 100-yard distance at 49.16 and sixth in the 200-yard distance at 1:01.56 and reached the championship finals of both races last season as a freshman.
In the breaststroke, Josh Meints currently holds the MAC's fastest time in the 100-yard race in 56.54, set at the Zippy meet. Meints finished third in the 100-yard breaststroke in 2011 while Christian Muller was the league runner-up in the 2011 final, setting a UB school record of 56.21. Meints also ranks fourth in the MAC in the 200-yard breaststroke.
Cory Zorsch finished third at last year's MAC meet in the 100-yard butterfly. Zorsch currently ranks fourth (49.94) on the MAC's top times list in the event, one spot below Schwippert (49.92). Eric Culver, who reached the championship final of last season's 200-yard butterly, leads the Bulls in the race this season and is fifth in the MAC at 1:52.52. Culver also holds UB's top spot in the 400-yard individual medley at 4:07.20, ranking him sixth in the MAC.
The Bulls also hold the top times in three of the five relay events, the 200-yard medley and the 200- and 800-yard freestyles, all set in December at the Zippy meet. UB is second in the MAC in the other two relays (400-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley).
UB should also contend on the diving boards as well. Senior Colin Patrican was second in the one-meter event at the 2011 MAC Championships. He ranks third in the league, behind a pair from Eastern Michigan, this season on both the one- and three-meter boards. Chris Iafrati ranks fourth on the three-meter and fifth on the one-meter boards this year. Both divers have already qualified for the Zone Diving Championships, to be held at UB's Alumni Arena Natatorium, March 9-11.
Head coach Andy Bashor, winner of the MAC's Men's Coach of the Year award in 2010 and 2011 is confident that his team can succeed. "We are excited about this weekend. The men have been doing a great job all year to get themselves ready for this moment." said Bashor. "We can't worry about what other teams might do or how they will perform. We need to focus on us as a team and perform at the level we know we are capable of. I know one thing is for sure, it is going to be a fast and exciting meet."
The meet is slated for Thursday through Saturday. Preliminary races begin each day at 11:00 am with championship races at 7:00 pm.