Clark Smith and Hennessey Stuart hadn’t competed in the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships before, but the former Regis Jesuit High School and Denver Swim Academy club teammates made the most of their chance once they got there.
Smith, a sophomore at the University of Texas, was the big winner among locals in the March 26-28 meet at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center in Iowa City, Iowa, as he won both an individual and team national championship.
Among six individual event titles for the Longhorns came Smith’s championship on the opening night of the meet, as he became the second-fastest 500 yard freestyle swimmer in school history with his time of 4 minutes, 9.72 seconds, which put him at the wall in front of Florida’s Dan Wallace (4:10.48). Smith, who came into the meet as the No. 5 seed with a top time of 4:13.32, had dropped a 4:11.17 in the prelims early in the day.
Smith earned NCAA gold the same as both of his parents, John — part of the Longhorns’ 400 medley relay champion in 1984 — and Tori (Trees), individual 1985 champion in the 200 backstroke. Both of Smith’s parents swam for longtime Texas head coach Eddie Reese.
Still coaching the team, Reese guided Texas to the program’s 11th all-time national champion and first since 2010. The Longhorns laid waste to the field with 528 points to finish well in front of defending champion Cal’s 399 points, which helped Reese to CSCAA Swimming Coach of the Year honors.
Clark Smith also made the championship heat of the 200 breaststroke as the No. 4 seed, but was disqualified for a one-hand touch on the wall.
Grandview grad John Martens swam in three events for Texas at the NCAA meet, but did not advance out of prelims in any of them, with his best result a 23rd-place finish in the 400 individual medley. He came in before a pair of other former Colorado prep stars as Cherry Creek grad Jake Markham of Georgia finished 24th and Legacy alum Steve Schmuhl (Indiana) came in 27th.
Pomona grad Nolan Tesone (Louisville) had the top result among former Colorado prep swimmers when he qualified for the consolation finals in 15th and moved up a spot with a 14th-place finish.
Stuart — Smith’s former Regis Jesuit teammate — contributed to North Carolina State’s eighth-place team showing, best for the program in 39 years.
Stuart was the lone freshman to make the championship final of the 200 backstroke, taking the third-fastest time from prelims in the final. Stuart touched the wall in 1:40.39 to finish seventh in his first NCAA championship final.
Though he failed to make the championship or consolation finals in his other two individual events, Stuart improved in both. Coming in as the 55th seed in the 200 individual medley, he rocketed up to the 28th spot in prelims and he finished 22nd in the prelims of the 100 backstroke after coming in seeded No. 26.
Two swimmers from Aurora high schools also were part of a team championship the previous week at the NCAA D-I women’s championships, as Regis Jesuit grad Missy Franklin and Smoky Hill grad Caroline Piehl each were part of Cal’s winning squad.
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes