The Texas men’s swimming and diving team won’t have to travel far in its quest for a fifth straight national title.
In fact, the Longhorns won’t have to travel at all.
Texas hosts the NCAA Division I men’s championships Wednesday through Saturday at the Texas Swim Center. Veteran UT coach Eddie Reese, in his 41st year of leading the program, will look to add to the 14 national titles he’s already won. But he said his athletes don’t necessarily have a home-pool advantage.
“Having it here starts us out a little flat because there’s an undercurrent of excitement when you go to another city and another pool,” Reese said Tuesday. “We love our pool, but we see it every day and it becomes commonplace or normal. It’s not a big deal for us to swim here, but it’s a big deal for everybody else to come here. Everybody in the country loves to have (the national meet) here.”
Ironically, the last time the Longhorns didn’t win a national title was the last time the event was held in Austin.
“Five years ago we hosted and we didn’t start very well,” Reese said. “We’re hoping to get a good start this year.”
Texas is led by senior Townley Haas, the defending champion in the 500-yard freestyle who also earned a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics as part of the 800-meter relay, and sophomore Austin Katz, the defending champion in the 200-yard backstroke.
Tate Jackson, an Austin native who swam at Vista Ridge and recently set the school and Big 12 record in the 100 free, and John Shebat, the runner-up in the 100 back and 200 back last year, will also be counted on for the Longhorns to do well.
But with 16 places being scored, depth is what wins national championships and Texas has plenty of it.
“The first individual event is the 500 freestyle and (Haas) has won it two out of the last three years,” Reese said. “We count on him, but we have four other guys who are important in the event and need to do well. Each event goes like that. We have one guy in every event who we think for sure will swim well, then we have younger guys who need to do well.”
Last year, the Longhorns edged California for the title, and Reese expects another tight race for the top of the standings.
“Every point counts,” he said. “Last year, in a meet with 3,000 points, we won by (11-and-a-half). If you take that by time, that’s about three meters among all the races. We’re really good this year, but Cal is really good and there are a lot of really good teams here. It’s going to be really close. It’s going to be who wins the close races.”
Times should also be incredibly fast as Jamail contains what Reese calls “the fastest pool in the world.”
“Everybody knows that when they come here if they can go fast, they will go fast,” he said.
Overall, Reese thinks his squad has a good chance to be the first team since his 1996 squad to win a national title in its home pool.
“I was scared all last week, and then Saturday we did some things in practice I consider indicators of how well we’re going to do here,” Reese said. “And we were really good (in practice). All we can control is what we do.”
Wednesday-Saturday, Texas Swim Center
10 a.m. prelims, 6 p.m. finals each day
Tickets, each day: $10 prelims SRO, $15 finals SRO; $10 diving prelims/consolation sessions only