GREENSBORO, NC – Wednesday marks the start of the 2018 NCAA Division II National Swimming and Diving Championships, and the Florida Southern men's team is putting its streak of six consecutive top-five finishes on the line under third-year head coach Mike Blum. The Moccasins have a well-balanced group of 10 swimmers that include six veterans of previous national meets and four first-time selections. Altogether, they will be eligible to compete in all 14 individual events and all five relays, and Florida Southern is one of only four schools with 10 or more swimmers selected.
Swimmers earn automatic spots by achieving NCAA "A" times throughout the season, but can also be selected based on the strength of their "B" times. Once a swimmer has been chosen to compete in a specific event or events at the National Finals, they may compete in any additional events in which they achieved the NCAA "B" standard. However, each swimmer is limited to no more than four individual events or seven total events including relays.
The 4-day championship meet features 19 swimming events and two diving events, and the NCAA will provide full coverage all week with live results and video. (Links will be provided once they are available.) Competition each day begins at 10:00 a.m. with preliminaries/trials in various events. The top eight swimmers will advance to the championship finals that night, with the next eight advancing to the consolation/B finals. (There are no prelims in the 1,000-freestyle, the 1,650-freestyle, or 800-freestyle relay.) Finals sessions begin each night at 6 p.m. A full meet schedule and digital program may be found here.
This is the first year the city of Greensboro is hosting the Division II championships but it did serve as host city for the Division III championships in 2016.
Last year, Florida Southern placed fourth behind Queens (NC), Drury (MO) and fellow Sunshine State Conference member Nova Southeastern. The Mocs' best finish was in 2013 and 2014 when they were the Division II national runner-up. Florida Southern's streak of six straight top-five finishes is the longest current streak in Division II, and only Queens and Drury have scored more points at the national finals during that span. Queens has won the last three national championships after Drury had won 10 in a row.
Of the 10 Florida Southern men's swimmers competing this week, six are making return trips to the national finals: seniors Noah Franz, Luis Jasso, and Luka Matacin, and juniors Nico Campbell, Matthew Holmes, and Luka Planinc. Making their first trip is sophomore Talor Hamilton and freshmen Miguel Bernotti, Brandon Dyck, and Matias Lopez. Jasso and Matacin are going for the fourth year in a row though Matacin's first two trips were with Drury.
The event where Florida Southern has the most eligible swimmers is the 200-freestyle where Campbell, Holmes, Franz, Matacin, and Planinc could all compete. The Moccasins have four of the nation's top 21 times in that event, and it's no surprise their aggregate time in the 800-freestyle relay ranks second on the eligibility list to Queens by a little over a quarter of a second. No other school has more than two swimmers ranked as highly as the Mocs' fourth.
The Mocs also have four eligible swimmers in the 50-free and 200-IM, though only Franz has a top-20 time in the 50-free, with Hamilton at No. 22. In the 200-IM, however, the Mocs have Holmes as the nation's only automatic qualifier in that event, and Matacin, who is No. 11 on the times list. Lopez and Jasso are eligible in the 200-IM too. The Mocs may be set up just as well in the 400-IM where Holmes ranks third and Lopez is 10th.
As far as the 100-freestyle goes, the Mocs could send out Franz, Holmes, and Campbell for that sprint, with Franz their highest ranked swimmer at No. 20.
The distance freestyle events will feature Planinc, who was the Mocs' top swimmer in the 1,000 and 1,650 and was third in the 500 behind Holmes and Lopez. Although Holmes is No. 10 on the national times list in the 500, Planinc has the best position for any of the events with a No. 6 ranking in the 1,000.
As the only current men's swimmer to represent Florida Southern the last four years at the national meet, Jasso will be looking to add to his All-American awards in the two breaststroke events where he ranks third nationally in the 100 and fifth in the 200.
Two of the Moccasin freshmen competing this week, Dyck and Lopez, are expected to carry the load in the backstroke, though Matacin is also eligible in the 200. Dyck was the Mocs' top performer in the 100 and their only national qualifier in that event, and Lopez was their best in the 200. Dyck goes into the national finals No. 9 on the times list in the 100 and Lopez is No. 9 in the 200.
As the third Moccasin freshman making the trip to Greensboro, Bernotti is the Mocs' best swimmer overall in the butterfly, as an eligible swimmer in both of those events, and sits at No. 6 on the national times list in the 200. He could be joined by Dyck in the 100, with Dyck their best swimmer at the shorter of the two lengths.
Florida Southern has always performed well in the relay races at nationals, where six of its nine gold medals have come. Three of those have come in the 400-medley (2011, 2012, and 2016), two have come in the 200-medley (2013 and 2016), and one has come in the 800-freestyle (2012). The Mocs are ranked in the top-five in all of them going into this year's national meet.
Over the years, Florida Southern has picked up additional medals in the 200-freestyle and 400-freestyle relays, including a bronze in each of them last year. Franz, who was a member of their top times in those two events this year, swam the leadoff leg for both of them at last year's national finals, and Campbell is back too after swimming the second leg in the 200.
In addition to following the NCAA Championships live online, check back each night on fscmocs.com for a full recap of the day's action. For a look at how the Moccasins have fared in previous NCAA Championships, click here.