Over two weeks between March 16–26, Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center hosted the NCAA Swim and Dive Championships where nine Tech swimmers participated in the college short course season finale. Junior McKenzie Campbell was Tech’s lone representative at the women’s meet during the first week, swimming the 200 Butterfly and placing 42nd overall.
The following week brought five new program records and All-American swims for the Jackets. The men recorded their second consecutive 21st place finish. Senior Caio Pumputis, freshman Berke Saka, senior Christian Ferraro and freshman Mert Kilavuz all qualified individually. Senior Austin Daniel, junior Daniel Kertesz, senior Clark Wakeland and sophomore Batur Ünlu joined them on relays throughout the meet.
“We were ready for the week and we proved it in the water,” said Pumputis after the championship meet where he won the most points individually for Tech, finishing 16th in the 200 IM, 14th in the 100 Breaststroke, and fifth in the 200 Breaststroke. In all three events, Pumputis earned All-American honors, ending his Tech career with 11 to his name. He clocked in at 1:43.37 in the 200 IM, 51.82 in the 100 Breaststroke, and in a program record 1:50.61 in the 200 Breaststroke.
Ferraro recorded 14 points for Tech just in the 200 Butterfly alone, finishing fifth en route to resetting his program record and earning his 7th All-American honor with a 1:40.09. While not scoring, he also reset his own 100 Butterfly program record to 45.24.
Kilavuz swam the distance freestyle events, the 500 and 1650. He finished 32nd in the 500 and 11th in the 1650, resetting his mile record by 1.63 seconds while earning All-American honors with a 14:40.99.
Saka finished 42nd in the 200 IM, 35th in the 100 Backstroke, and 24th in the 200 Backstroke.
Tech’s 200 Freestyle Relay of Ferraro, Daniel, Pumputis and Ünlu set the program record in 1:17.36, despite finishing last of those not disqualified in the event.
All four of Kilavuz, Saka, Ferraro and Pumputis confirmed to the Technique they are aiming to qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. Despite the team’s 21st place finish, Pumputis saw it as a step forward for the Jackets in the future.
“We already started this process [of improving] so we definitely got better since I got here and since Christian got here. It’s our fifth year here so we definitely improved a lot. And now with these guys coming in we got a good recruiting class coming for 2022–2023. So we’re definitely in the right spot and moving towards the right direction.”
At the top of the standings, it was a tight meet between California and last year’s champions Texas. Cal pulled ahead after Destin Lasco won the 200 Backstroke for the Bears on the final night, and had the victory guaranteed by the final relay of the evening.
Pool records were established in 12 events, of which five were NCAA records (200 Medley Relay, 800 Freestyle Relay, 200 IM, 400 IM, 100 Backstroke). While no relay record was set in the 400 Medley Relay, Georgia’s Luca Urlando broke the 100 Backstroke NCAA record in the leadoff leg in 43.35. NC State’s Kacper Stokowski won the individual event in 44.04 earlier in the evening.
At the women’s meet, the Virginia Cavalier women won 11 of the 18 swimming events, setting at least the McAuley pool record in eight of the events. Alex Walsh and Katie Douglass both won three events individually, and Gretchen Walsh added an individual win in the 100 Freestyle to top off Virginia’s four relay wins. Virginia beat second place NC State by 145.5 points for the NCAA Championship.
An astounding six NCAA records were set, five of which were by Virginia, and the other in the 100 Backstroke by NC State’s Katharine Berkoff. Only five swimming events in total did not result in at least a pool record.
The women’s meet also drew additional national attention because of participation by Penn’s Lia Thomas, the first transgender athlete to ever participate at the NCAA Championships. Transphobic protests against her participation occurred in front of the Campus Recreation Center during every session of competition where there was not inclement weather.
Thomas won the 500 Freestyle in 4:33.24 by one body length over Virginia’s Emma Weyant. At the medal podium afterwards, Erica Sullivan, Weyant and Brooke Forde, who placed second through fourth in the event, all took a picture together from a distance from Thomas. Sullivan on Instagram afterwards clarified that it was not meant to protest Thomas’ participation but was “taking a picture with my closest friends from the Olympics.”