The Virginia men’s swimming and diving team placed tenth overall at the 2022 NCAA Championships at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Ga. The Cavaliers scored 154.5 total points, breaking numerous Virginia records in their final meet of the season.
Virginia outperformed expectations at the meet, with the most recent College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America polls ranking the Cavaliers at 17th. The tenth place finish was good for second place in the ACC behind a strong and deep No. 2 ranked NC State squad. Virginia notably finished ahead of multiple higher-ranked conference rivals, including No. 8 Virginia Tech and No. 10 Louisville, who respectively placed 11th and 12th overall.
The first Virginia record to be broken was the 200-yard medley relay Wednesday evening. Sophomores Matt Brownstead, Noah Nichols and Matt King and junior August Lamb beat the previous record for the Cavaliers by two seconds with a time of 1:22.97 to kick off the meet. The team won their first heat in the event to set the record and recorded an 11th place finish overall.
Additionally, Virginia placed 12th overall in the 800-yard freestyle. The relay group of freshman Jack Aikins, freshman Connor Boyle, senior Justin Grender and junior Jack Wright combined for a time of 6:14.32.
Brownstead maintained his record-breaking pace on Thursday when he broke the Virginia record in the 50-yard freestyle first in prelims, then again in the finals with a time of 18.60. He earned third overall in the event as well as All-American honors. King finished 12th in the same event with a time of 19.02 to achieve the second best time in Cavalier history.
In the 200-yard freestyle, which Virginia set an American record for in the ACC tournament, Virginia placed fifth. Brownstead, King, Boyle and Lamb swam the event in 1:14.90, just shy of yet another Cavalier record.
Once more, Virginia’s record books required revision following Friday’s action. Aikens, Nichols, junior Josh Fong and King swam the 400-yard medley relay in 3:04.39, the fastest Cavalier time ever. King’s anchor freestyle leg was a blistering 40.90 to lead Virginia to a fourteenth place finish in the event.
Senior Casey Storch also reached the Consolation final of the 400-yard individual medley, setting a personal best time of 3:41.34 in the prelims. He would go on to place 16th overall, but earned All-American honors for his efforts.
The Cavaliers entered the final day of competition in 13th place overall, and they swam with the intent to improve their standing. First, Grender set a Virginia record in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:39.49 in prelims to qualify for finals and eventually capture eighth overall. Aikens won his consolation final in the same event, immediately snatching the record from Grender with a time of 1:39.26.
Another instance of record swapping came when Brownstead beat King’s Virginia record time of 41.48 seconds that King set in the prelims of the 100-yard freestyle. Brownstead improved on the mark in the finals with a time of 41.22 seconds, earning fourth overall. King also improved on his preliminary mark, finishing in 41.34 seconds to claim seventh.
To close out the competition, Brownstead, King, Aikins and Boyle took home fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Finishing in 2:46:80, they fell just short of the Virginia record in the event — one set by the same group earlier this season in a time of 2:46.45.
This outing provided a highly talented group with the opportunity to continue to progress and compete at a high level. The Cavaliers rose to the occasion and finished in the top ten at the NCAA Championships for the third year in a row. The last time this occurred for the men was the 2009-11 seasons, and the bar has been set for the program to match or exceed this placement in the coming years. In a season full of broken records at a university and national level for skilled underclassman swimmers like Aikins, Brownstead and King, the future looks bright for Virginia’s program moving forward.