Men’s swimming team enjoying breakout year

Photo courtesy of Danny Karnik

For the seniors on the men’s swimming and diving team this year has been the most successful during their time at Tech. The hard work they have put in the past four years is paying off and the team is hoping to finish the year strong.

Led by captains Mark Sarman and Nico van Duijn, the team has reached new heights during their time at Tech.

The two of them have their goals set high for themselves and the team as ACC Championships are just around the corner.

This past weekend, the swimming and diving team hosted senior day, honoring ten student athletes from the men’s and women’s team.

The men’s team once again continued their hot streak as they beat Duke convincingly 200-88.

The seniors had a great showing at the meet with Andrew Kosic qualifying for a NCAA B-cut in the 50 Free and 100 Fly events and won three individual events. Tech swept several events including the 1650 free, 500 free and 100 back events

Tech moved to 8-3 overall and 3-1 in ACC play and have had close meets with some of the best teams in the country.

Currently collegeswimming.com ranks Tech as the No. 23 team in the nation, making them one of the most successful sports at Tech right now.

van Duijn, a Switzerland native, swims in the Fly event and his 100 fly and 200 fly times are second best in Tech history.

van Duijn and junior distance swimmer Yuval Safra both participated in the 2014 European Swimming championships.

Safra is originally from Israel, and the Olympic facilities the team uses played a major role in choosing Tech.

Both Safra and van Duijn have fond memories of the European championships, and they both set personal records in their events.

“It was a great experience. It was my second time swimming in the elite-level European championships on long course. I had lifetime bests in both the 50 and 200 Fly events. Overall, it was definitely a great experience to swim on that level,” van Dujin said. “The more experience you get racing under pressure in a situation where you’re really nervous, it just helps you every time and you get better.”

Safra swam in the 10K and 25K races on an open water course which he described as a marathon for swimming. Despite never swimming in the 25K before, he finished seventh in the event.

The experienced members of the team have gained have helped Tech succeed this year.

Many others have competed besides van Duijn and Safra in major competitions. Senior Andrew Chetcuti competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics for his home country, Malta.

Sarman, who swims in the fly and IM events, is very pleased with the season this year and is proud of how the far the Tech swimming program has come since his freshman year.

“Our freshman class this year has a bunch of studs and just getting everyone on the same page and to swim and compete towards a common goal: … getting better and moving up in the ACC,” Sarman said. “[The team] has definitely improved a whole lot since coming in as a freshman. Just the whole mindset of the team, we still all have that championship mindset. It’s been a great ride so far… especially this season, and I’m excited to see what happens next month.”

Sarman and van Duijn have embraced their leadership roles, and during dual meets they rally the team to swim their fastest.

“Our graduating class, all of them are awesome. Nico and Mark are obviously great captains, and they really picked up the team this year and they’re doing really great. Elliott [Brockelbank] swims with us, and he’s a great teammate to practice with, and we motivate each other. Everybody has their own way of contributing to the team and at the end of the day. They all feel like family,” Safra said.

The team is excited as the major part of the schedule is coming up. They have two more meets before but are looking forward to hosting the 2015 ACC Championship Feb. 24-28.

“We definitely want to improve on our finish from last year during ACC’s and obviously qualify multiple individuals for NCAA’s and multiple relays for NCAA’s at ACC’s,” Sarman said.

Sarman has a lot of confidence in team to achieve those goals at ACC’s, and his personal goal is to make NCAA’s in an individual event and on a relay.

van Duijn has been to NCAA’s multiple times in his Tech career and is hoping to make it back for one last time.

“I set my goals more on NCAA’s than ACC’s. My goal last year was to score points in all my individual events, but this requires a top notch performance at conference,” van Duijn said.

van Duijn believes that home pool advantage will be a big factor for the Tech team come ACC Championship time.

“We know this pool, and we spend hours in here and know exactly what the walls are like. They are usually different in every pool, and we want to use that towards our advantage. Plus the home crowd. I’m hoping we get a lot of people to show up and support us,” van Duijn said.

The swimming and diving team travels to Blacksburg, Virginia this weekend.