Some dove in head-first, others jumped hand-in-hand. Head coach Eddie Reese opted for the pencil dive. Then finally, the team’s three competing seniors all dropped into the water together, one last time.
The final scene at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships was a celebratory one for the Texas Longhorns as they were crowned national champions for a record 14th time in school history.
“That’s one of those traditions I’d like to drop,” Reese said. “Normally if we’re ahead by 100 points, I bring extra clothes over. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out so I walked back through 200 yards of minus-80 degrees. (It wasn’t) that cold, but it felt that cold. It was the right planning, but it didn’t work out well. I’m glad it worked out that way.”
The victory marked the fourth time in as many seasons that the team has reigned supreme at the season’s end. But this was not always the case for Texas.
In mid-November, it appeared that this may not be the year for UT. They uncharacteristically began the season with four consecutive losses and seemed far from their normal winning ways.
Reese’s experience and the program’s winning culture once again outweighed any outside noise.
Jonathan Roberts was one of the team’s three competing seniors who finished his last meet by being recognized as a national champion for the fourth time in as many years for the Longhorns.
“A lot of people say trust the process,” Roberts said. “You’ve got to trust Eddie Reese because he’s been here for 40 years. He’s done this before. He won four in a row before any of the current members of this team were born. So he’s been here, he’s done that and it was kind of just buying into whatever he wanted to do.”
Saturday night’s win in Minneapolis marked the last time that Roberts will enter the pool for Texas. Now, he has a lot to reflect on through his four years in the program.
“It’s just been an honor to win four,” Roberts said. “I look back at all four of these teams and they’re all unique and you can kind of pick out intricate puzzle pieces out of all of them. Amazing memories. Amazing people. Meaningful relationships that I’ll look back on for the rest of my life.”
Athletic director Chris Del Conte, who watched Texas’ national title victory from the sideline, said that Reese embodies what it takes to lead a program at UT.
“He’s the bell cow,” Del Conte said. “He’s the standard. You think about Connecticut women’s basketball. UCLA, John Wooden — and you think of Eddie Reese in Texas swimming. What he’s done here is second to none in the modern era. It’s unbelievable. Eddie Reese was hired by Darrell Royal. That tells you how long he’s been here and what he’s done with this program. He’s an institution. He defines Texas.”