Three former Aurora prep swim stars will take aim at the NCAA Division I men’s championship meet starting Thursday.
Regis Jesuit grads Clark Smith and Hennessey Stuart and Grandview grad John Martens — who won a slew of Class 5A individual and relay state championships in high school among them — are among the 270 participants (235 swimmers, 35 divers) set to compete in the March 26-28 meet at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center in Iowa City, Iowa.
All three former Aurora standouts compete in the NCAA championships for the first time in their careers.
Smith, a sophomore, and Martens, a junior, have a chance to be part of a men’s championship, as their Texas team is considered one of the favorites to win the title. The Longhorns — who will try to win an 11th national championship for coach Eddie Reese, who coached Smith’s parents John and Tori (Trees) at Texas as well — finished second behind Cal last season and the two teams expect fight it out for the crown again this season.
Stuart, a freshman on an up-and-coming North Carolina State team that won the ACC championship after a 25-year drought, has a chance for individual glory as the No. 2 overall seed in the 200 yard backstroke.
Swimmers from Aurora schools set a high bar last week at the NCAA women’s championships, as Regis Jesuit grad Missy Franklin and Smoky Hill grad Caroline Piehl each contributed to Cal’s national team championship.
Individually, Smith is seeded fourth in the 200 yard butterfly with a best time of 1:41.42 coming into the meet, while he’s also the No. 5 seed in the 500 yard freestyle (4:13.32) and sits 17th in the 200 freestyle (1:34.07).
Martens, meanwhile, is the No. 18 seed in both the 400 individual medley (3:42.82) and the 200 butterfly (1:43.05), plus was among 40 swimmers invited to compete in the 200 IM, where his time of 1:44.74 ranks 34th in a field of 71 entrants.
Stuart already owns the North Carolina State school record in the 200 backstroke and won the ACC championship in the event, while his time of 1:39.37 puts him second only to Cal sophomore Ryan Murphy, who checked in with a 1:38.34. Stuart is also seeded 26th in the 100 backstroke (46.42) and 55th in the 200 IM (1:46.32).
The prelims of the 500 freestyle and 200 IM are contested on Thursday in a session beginning at 10 a.m. MT, with the finals slated for 6 p.m.
The 400 IM and 200 freestyle prelims take place in the 10 a.m. MT session Friday, with finals at 6 p.m. MT, while the 200 backstroke is scheduled for the 10 a.m. MT session Saturday, with finals at 6 p.m. MT.
Other former Colorado prep swimmers in the meet include Jake Markham (Cherry Creek-Georgia), Nolan Tesone (Pomona-Louisville) and Stephen Schmuhl (Legacy-Indiana).
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes