Although Cornell sent a small delegation of just two swimmers to the men’s NCAA championships at Georgia Tech this past Saturday, junior Mike Smit and senior Stefano Caprara were able make a splash in the most intense competition on the college stage.
Smit earned All-America honors in the 200-yard freestyle, while Caprara placed in the top-25 in both of his events. Their efforts helped the Red to place 46th overall in the championships.
It was Caprara’s second trip to the championships, and he competed in the same events he raced a year ago, improving upon his matching 29th-place finishes in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke at the 2005 championships. Despite his lack of experience at the national level, Smit was able to shine in his first outing at the championships. Both swimmers earned berths in the national field after notching times in an event that ranked among the top-21 of all collegiate swimmers in the nation.
“Swimming is the hardest sport to qualify for individually out of all the other NCAA championships,” said head coach Joe Lucia.
qualifying in one event, the swimmers are allowed to compete in their other events. There are no at-large bids given to swimmers on conference-winning teams. The only way to punch a ticket to Georgia Tech this year was to post a top-21 time.
In the 200-yard free, Smit made it to the consolation finals and finished in 14th place. His time was 1:35.95, which was fast enough to make him one of 14 swimmers to break the old pool record.
“That was the nicest pool I’ve ever swam in,” said Smit. “There was so much energy in the building that it just fired people up to swim their best.”
Smit also swam the 100-yard freestyle, where he placed 41st in the preliminaries with a time of 44.37. This time was good enough to inch Smit past old Cornell legend Randy Sprout’s ’86 record of 44.39 set at the Eastern championships in 1985.
Smit himself was even shocked that he had broken Sprout’s record.
“That was the kind of record that no one thought was going to be broken,” Smit said.
Smit wasn’t the only swimmer setting impressive records at the 2006 NCAA championships.
“It seemed like in almost every event someone was breaking a record,” Smit said. “People were breaking NCAA records, American records, and even world records. It was pretty amazing just to watch people swim that fast.”
Caprara was impressive as well, swimming in both the 100 and 200-yard backstroke events. He placed 22nd in both preliminaries. Caprara swam the 100-yard race in 48.71 seconds and he posted a time of 1:46.42 in the 200-yard backstroke.