2015 SCAC Men's Swimming & Diving Championship - Preview

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – The 2015 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Swimming & Diving Championships will be held February 11-14 at the Rockwall Independent School District Natatorium in Rockwall, Texas. Psych Sheet | Official Website | Live Video ($)

It is the fourth consecutive year that the conference meet will be held at the Rockwall ISD.

Trinity University is the defending champion on the men's side. The Tigers earned their fourth consecutive SCAC men's swimming and diving title and seventh overall by easily outpointing the field, finishing with 819 points to second-place Colorado College's 603.5.

Trinity returns 10 swimmers who earned All-SCAC honors a year ago, led by senior Stephen Culberson and junior Andrew Thiesse, who were both three-time All-SCAC performers a year ago. The defending SCAC Swimmer-of-the-Year and current national champion in the 100 free, Culberson has posted the fastest time this season in three events (50 free, 100 free and 200 free). He is the two-time defending conference champion in the 100 free and won the 50 free and the 100 fly at last year's meet. Thiesse, who won the 500 and 1,650 free and placed second in the 200 free at last year's championships, has posted top three times this season in the 200 and 500 free as well as the 200 back and 400 IM heading into this week's championships. Junior Nikita Chirkov returns after finishing second and third, respectively, in the 400 IM and 200 breast at last year's conference meet as does fellow third-year swimmer Will Clinton, who placed third in both the 200 back and the 400 IM. Senior Adam Thomas finished second behind Culberson in the 50 free at last year's conference meet and he has the second-fastest time in that event heading into this week's championships. Junior Tom Jones (100 fly) and sophomore Isaac Johnson (100 back) also return after posting All-SCAC finishes a year ago.

With most of its relay stalwarts returning, records in all five relays are in danger of falling. All of the Tigers' record-setting 200 free relay team from a year ago (A. Thomas, Culberson, Johnson and senior Kevin Thomas) return after setting the new SCAC standard in the event with a finishing time of 1:21.64. Junior Jon Hoffman, along with Culbertson, A. Thomas and Johnson were part of a 400 free relay team that swam the second-fastest time ever (3:03.22) for that event and Johnson, Jones, Culberson and A. Thomas posted the third-fastest time in the 200 medley (1:33.54) last year. Three-fourths of the 800 free relay team (Culberson, Thiesse, and sophomore Conor Young) are back after posting the event's fourth-fastest time in 2014. 

Southwestern University, which posted a program-best second-place finish at the 2014 championships, returns a trio of sophomore all-conference contributors that led to that historic effort. Shelby Hall returns to defend his 200 fly title and fellow second-year swimmer Evan Jones is back after posting third place finishes in the 500 free and 200 fly a year ago. Simon Belaineh placed third in the 50 free last season to garner all-SCAC honors. Junior Ty Lapinski also returns as part of the Pirates' first-ever winning relay team (400 medley), along with Hall and Belaineh. Southwestern has an impressive crop of first-year swimmers lurking around the top of this year's top times list, including Matt Sluss, Julian Smith, Mickey Scharbrough and Alex Villarreal. Sluss has posted the top times thus far this season in both the 100 and 200 fly as well as the 200 IM. Smith is tops in both the 100 and 200 back and Scharbrough has the season's best times in both the 100 and 200 breast. Villarreal has posted the top time in the 400 IM. Fellow freshman Martin Martinez is also a threat to post an all-SCAC finish in several events. 

Colorado College looks to rebound from last year's fourth-place finish at the 2014 conference championships.  The Tigers return four All-SCAC swimmers from a year ago, including the league's three-time defending Diver-of-the-Year, senior Austin Howlett. Howlett won the 1-meter board at last year's meet for the third consecutive year - posting the third-highest score in the event's history. Although an injury kept him from defending his 3-meter title at conference, he did earn a second all-America honor in the event the following month at Nationals. Senior Chris Garrity returns to defend his 100 back title as does sophomore Daniel Oldendorf, who won the 200 back at last year's conferencce championships. Senior Matt Nadel returns after finishing third in the 1650 free a year ago.

After finishing fifth last season, Centenary College will depend on several new faces to score at this year's conference meet. With five first-year swimmers, 33 percent of this year's Gents squad will be making their first-ever appearance at the SCAC championshps. Centenary does return three all-conference performers from a year ago, including sophomore Juan Tapia who is back to defend his 400 IM title. In addition, juniors Arash Ataei and Beau Montgomery were both part of Centenary's 200 and 400 free relay teams that earned all-SCAC honors in 2014.

Austin College, which finished sixth at the 2014 championships, has a roster made up entirely of underclassmen. The young 'Roos will look for a strong performance from freshman Braedon Mitchell, who posted victories in the 50 and 100 free in the team's last meet – a dual against McMurry University. Junior Erik Gentzel and freshman Collin Vu are additional threats to produce all-conference performances.

McMurry (Texas) University is making its inaugural appearance at the SCAC championships. An affiliate member in the sport of swimming and diving, the Warhawks are led by veteran coach Bev Ball who brings a roster of nine men's swimmers to Rockwall for this year's conference meet. Leading the Warhawks are juniors Kamron Salinas and Kent Grimes as well as first-year swimmer Vince Crosby. All three earned individual wins this past weekend in the team's final meet of the regular season against Austin College.

Competition at the 2015 SCAC Swimming and Diving Championships begins on Wednesday, February 11 with three events (women's and men's 200 medley relay, men's 1-meter diving and the women's and men's 800 free relay) at 6:30 p.m. CST. Competition continues on Thursday, February 12 and runs through Saturday, February 14 with morning preliminaries at 10:30 a.m. and finals following at 6:30 p.m. each day.

For a complete schedule of events, go the official website of the 2015 SCAC Swimming & Diving Championships: