Right before he left for nationals, Texas coach Eddie Reese declined to give a prediction on whether the Longhorns swimmers and divers would win the NCAA men’s championship.
He just promised it would be really close.
Keep in mind that the Longhorns had won the last three national titles in a row in overwhelming fashion, by an average margin of more than 171 points.
After what unfolded Saturday night in the meet’s final session in Minneapolis, Reese proved to be quite the swimming soothsayer. Texas won its fourth straight national championship and 14th overall by one of the slimmest margins in its rich history.
“I don’t ever talk about winning NCAAs; I just find a way to get better,” Reese said late Saturday at his NCAA press conference.
It is the second time the Longhorns have strung together four national titles in a row. UT did it the first time from 1988 to 1991.
The 76-year-old Reese is in his 40th season at Texas. He’s won national championships in four decades. The first was in 1981.
The Longhorns edged runner-up California by 11.5 points — 449 to 437.5. Of the 14 titles, only the one in 2002 (an 11-point victory over Stanford) was closer. But close contests count as much as the lopsided ones when it comes to collecting trophies.
Indiana was third with 422 points, followed by North Carolina State (385) and Florida (347).
Texas took its final lead on the next-to-last event of the meet. That’s when freshman Jordan Windle placed second in platform diving. Teammate Jacob Cornish finished third in the consolation finals, giving Texas a total of 23 points.
After that, basically all Texas needed to do to clinch the team title was to swim the 400-yard freestyle relay without getting disqualified and have Cal finish second or lower. The relay team of Brett Ringgold, Townley Haas, Joseph Schooling and Tate Jackson was fourth, one spot behind Cal.
The Longhorns were third after the first full session of finals Thursday. They were second after Friday night.
UT took its first lead Saturday after the 200 backstroke. Texas freshman Austin Katz and teammate John Shebat swept the top two spots, and Jonathan Roberts was fifth. The Longhorns also received big points in the 100 freestyle with Haas in sixth and Jackson finishing seventh.
Haas was the top performer for Texas with two NCAA victories. He broke the American and NCAA records in the 200 free Friday night.
Freshmen also played a big part. Katz won an event, and Windle scored on all boards in diving. It all allowed UT’s senior class to leave school a perfect 4-0.
“This means the world to me,” said Roberts, a senior. “This is definitely the sweetest one, the closest one, the most competitive one. … It’s been a honor to be with (Reese) for these past four years.”