Longhorns dominate championships, earn 12th national title

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Texas team members celebrate after winning the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ John Bazemore

Head coach Eddie Reese stood alongside his men’s swimming and diving team in front of the Littlefield Fountain on Sunday night, the tower draped in burnt orange and lit with “1.”

About 24 hours earlier, those same players pushed him and men’s athletics director Mike Perrin into the Georgia Tech pool in celebration of the team’s 12th national championship — tied for the most in NCAA history.

The moment marked a major milestone for Reese. Saturday’s title broke a tie with former Ohio State coach, Mike Peppe, making Reese the most decorated coach in men’s collegiate swimming and diving.

“I’ve never had a goal to be an Olympic coach or win an NCAA title,” Reese said. “I just want to get people to go faster. It’s always the swimmers that do it.”

The 190.5 point victory over second-place California pushed the Longhorns into a tie with Michigan for most in Division I history.

Reese has been responsible for the rise of the Longhorns’ program since taking over in 1979, leading the team to each of those 12 titles, as well as 11 runner-up finishes.

Despite the success, he said every championship is different.

“Every year, every person is different,” Reese said. “It takes different workouts and different strength programs to get them to go faster. That’s my whole goal.”

Sophomore Joseph Schooling tied with California’s Ryan Murray and Florida’s Caeleb Dressel for the CSCAA Swimmer of the Meet honor. Reese took the CSCAA National Coach of the Meet award for the second-straight year.

“It’s always nice to contribute to the team,” Schooling said. “Winning never feels bad. I’m happy to have done my part.”

The Longhorns opened the meet in record-setting fashion, winning the first four events for the first time in school history, including earning the NCAA title in the 800-meter freestyle relay for the 13th time, as juniors Jack Conger and Clark Smith, freshman Townley Haas and sophomore Joseph Schooling set NCAA and NCAA Championship meet records.

Haas’ inaugural trip to the NCAA Championships was eventful. His 1:30.46 finish in the 200-meter freestyle became the new NCAA, American and NCAA Championship meet record, as Haas became the first swimmer to clear the 1:31 mark in the event.

Texas capped the second night with a neck-and-neck race to the wall with California in the 400-meter medley relay. Strong splits by Schooling and Conger helped the Longhorns earn their second consecutive title in the event, as well as set new NCAA, U.S. Open and NCAA Championship records.

Licon’s dominant performance in the 200-meter medley made him the only Longhorn to win NCAA titles in both the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys. But he said the 400-meter medley relay win means the most to him.

“That was a group effort, all four of us together rather than individual effort,” Licon said.

Schooling conquered the seven-year-old NCAA record in the 100-meter butterfly previously held by Stanford’s Austin Staab, earning the U.S. Open record as well.

An exciting final day consisted of Licon and Schooling setting individual NCAA records in the 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard butterfly, respectively.

The focus for the swimmers now shifts south towards Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 Summer Olympics. But Reese’s eyes are on setting up his team for a run towards a 13th title.

“I get halfway through the meet, it looks like we’re winning, and I’m figuring out how to make us better for next year,” Reese said. “You [enjoy it] at the moment and then you move on.”