Feb. 27, 2004
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. –
Know for recruiting sprinters, the Florida State University men’s swimming and diving team knew that it would have a shot at a few titles on the fastest day of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. Two Seminoles wore gold on Friday (February 27) as Wickus Nienaber and Chris Vythoulkas both captured championships.
As team, Florida State remains in second place with a total of 361 points. The host Virginia continues to lead at 558.50 points, while North Carolina is barking at the Seminoles’ heals in third with 329.50 points.
“I like where we are at,” Seminole head man Neil Harper said. “Second is great and the guys are giving us everything they got. We need to have some more Seminoles step up tomorrow to have a chance to hold onto second. It’s going to have to be a team effort from the guys in the mile all the way up to the 400 free relay.”
The triumph was particularly sweet for Nienaber (Manzini, Swaziland) following his uphill climb the entire season. During the fall, the senior contracted malaria during a trip home for the All-Africa Games. Nienaber missed several weeks of practice and didn’t compete in a meet until January. Standing on top of the winner’s stand Friday night, the comeback was complete.
“It’s amazing to think that there was a time where he was in intensive care and you didn’t know if he was going to make it,” Harper said of Nienaber. “To finally come back and win an ACC Championship is phenomenal. It was a huge moral boost. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. It was a great thing to see.
“I really think it kept him focused. He came in under the radar because he didn’t have a taper meet in the fall. He had an emphatic showing this morning and put the exclamation point on it tonight.”
Nienaber led a contingency of four Seminoles in the finals of the 100 breaststroke. He recorded a career-best and NCAA “B” cut of 54.18, ranking him third in school history. Tal Stricker (Ramat-Gan, Israel) hit the wall in fourth at 55.97, while freshman Paul Erben (Panama City, Fla.) place sixth with a 55.08. During the prelims, Erben posted an NCAA consideration time of 55.46, the fifth-best time in Seminole lore.
The only event that out did the breaststroke for points was the 100-yard butterfly. Topping a list of four Seminoles to score points was Roycik (Winter Park, Fla.) as he hit the wall with a career-best time of 47.53. The mark is the second fastest in school history and meets NCAA “B” cut standards.
“Joel has taken a huge step,” Harper added. “He’s not a rookie anymore and he’s confident in what we’re doing. We knew that he had the endurance after his swim on the 800 free relay and the plan was to take everybody out and see if they could hang. He executed it perfectly and no one was going to catch him.”
Also posting an NCAA “B” mark and career-best was Michael Averett (Davie, Fla.) with his fifth-place swim of 48.55 to rank eighth in FSU history. Two spots back was Chris Vythoulkas (Nassau, Bahamas) as he touched in at 48.68 to finish seven. Rounding out the point scorers in the event was transfer Stephan Connor (Burr Ridge, Ill.) as he placed 15th with his 49.86.
Two other events saw multiple FSU swimmers rack up points. Vythoulkas hit the wall in 49.21 to place second in the 100 freestyle, followed by Jared Heine (Honolulu, Hawaii) in 15th at 51.15. Earlier in the day, Vythoulkas notched the third-best 100 back time with his career-best 49.00 in the prelims.
“What a double,” Harper commented. “That’s one of the toughest doubles in swimming. He came back 30 minutes later to lead off the 400 medley relay. He was an iron man today. He’s coming into his own as well and making huge strides. If had swam either event fresh, he had a good chance to win one of them.”
Florida State put three swimmers in the consolation final of the 200-yard freestyle. Junior Alan Ribeiro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) scored points for the second night in a row with his 13th-place swim of 1:40.20. Connor was back in the consoles with a time of 1:40.40 to take 14th. Rookie Brett Irvin (Boca Raton, Fla.) rounded out the scoring with a time of 1:40.40 to finish a spot back.
Ending the evening was a second place swim by the 400 medley relay team. The quartet of Vythoulkas, Averett, Nienaber and Michael Paulus (Somerset West South Africa) posted an NCAA “B” time of 3:15.88.
The four-day championship concludes Saturday at the UVA Aquatic and Fitness Center with the 200 distances in the stroke events, 100 & 1,650 freestyles, three-meter diving and 400 free relay.
Agate: Team Scores 1. Virginia 558.50 2. Florida State 361 3. North Carolina 329.50 4. Clemson 293 5. Georgia Tech 266.50 6. NC State 221.50 7. Maryland 178 8. Duke 109
Event 9 - 100 Butterfly 1) Joel Roycik, 47.53 - NCAA "B" Cut, Career-Best 5) Michael Averett, 48.55 - NCAA "B" Cut, Career-Best 7) Chris Vythoulkas, 48.68 15) Stephan Connor, 49.86 19) Matt Wheeler, 51.19 - Career-Best
Event 7 - 200 Freestyle Relay 2) Florida State, 3:15.88 - NCAA "B" Cut (Vythoulkas Averett, Nienaber, Paulus)