SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo men's swim team has set another program record as the Lions will be sending five representatives to the NCAA Championships it was announced by the NCAA on Tuesday night. Matheus Assis, Michael Cozzi, Gabe Keown, Milton Alberto-Requejo and Pawel Trenda will be traveling to Birmingham, Ala. with Head Coach Paul Mangen and Assistant Coach Devin Murphy for the Championships, taking place March 6-9.
"At the beginning of the year we set our sights on being top 10 in relays, knowing full well how difficult that jump would be since our average relay ranking last season was 21st," Mangen said. "So for us to have three relays within the top 10 and get invited to the NCAA is exactly what we set out to do."
The record-setting number was achieved courtesy of the 400 Free 'A' relay the Lions posted at the Sunshine State Conference Championships. Posting a time of 2:57.97 the group of Assis, Keown, Alberto-Requejo and Trenda automatically qualified for the tournament. That is not the only relay that qualified as the foursome will also swim the 200 Free relay and Assis, Alberto-Requejo and Trenda, along with Cozzi will take to the pool in the 800 Free.
Assis, the Sunshine State Conference's Men's Swimmer of the Meet in the SSC Championships racked up the individual 'A' cut times in 50 Free, 100 Free and 400 Free as he will be very busy when the Lions arrive in Alabama. Also with a busy schedule will be Trenda as he was invited to participate in the individual events of the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 100 Fly.
As a result of the 'A' cut qualification, the other Lions without 'A' times can swim in their individual events during the NCAA Championships. The Saint Leo swimmers will also participate in the following events:
Cozzi: 100 Free, 200 Free, 500 Free and 1650 Free
Keown: 50 Free, 100 Free and 200 Free
Alberto-Requejo: 50 Free, 100 Free and 200 Free
Mangen continued, "These five guys have a lot of qualities and talents that allow them to excel. The common denominator is that they have a strong competitive spirit. They have found ways to band together during those times in the season where there seems to be no end in sight and have always worked hard and stayed positive."
An 'A' Cut means that a swimmer has produced an automatic qualifying time for the NCAA Tournament. The time is set by averaging the third place time at NCAA Championships over the last 3 years. Once you qualify for an 'A' Cut you are in the NCAA meet and can swim the event that you qualified in as well as any other event that you would have a 'B' Cut.
'B' cuts are also called provisional cuts. It means that you are qualified to compete at the national meet, but you would have to get invited into the meet in an event by making the cut.
The selection of the five Lions surpasses the total amount of swimmers sent to the NCAA's since the program's inception in 2005. Prior to this season, only Julie Carusone, Maggie Walker and Tim Olson qualified for swimming's postseason.
"It's not hard working for athletes that "want it." They push me as a coach to know what and how to train them and the hardest but most fun part is that it's a moving target. They aren't the same athletes today that they were in December, so we are going to readjust our goals which will dictate our training tactics and go from there."
"I'm thrilled, but the celebration is over and it's back to business."
The Lions will prepare for their trip to Birmingham for the remainder of February. The Championships get underway March 6.