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April 14, 2014

Tech swimming and diving teams close season in style

By: Jimmy Robertson

The men’s team finished in the top 20 for the third straight season at the NCAA Championship, while the women’s team recorded a top-25 finish for the third straight year

T.J. Shinholser (left) and Ryan Hawkins claimed All-America honors in the platform event at the 2014 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship.

An unbelievable season for the Tech swimming and diving teams ended in a fashion befitting of the year – strong performances at the NCAA Championships.

The Tech men’s team recorded a 20th-place finish at the NCAA Championship held in Austin, Texas, on March 27-29, while the Tech women’s team finished 24th at the women’s NCAA Championship held March 20-22 in Minneapolis, Minn.

The 20th-place finish for the men’s team marked its third straight top-20 finish. California took home the team championship, besting second-place Texas by 51 points.

“Three straight years in the top 20 is quite an accomplishment for our men’s program,” Tech head coach Ned Skinner said. “Coach [Ron] Piemonte [Tech’s diving coach] and our divers should be commended for an outstanding week. Ryan Hawkins has been so important to this program, and we’re very proud of the emergence of T.J. Shinholser at the national level. To see Collin Higgins set an ACC record in the 200 backstroke was an especially thrilling moment for our team. This week capped a storybook season for our program, and we’re so proud of this team and what they’re all about, in and out of the pool.”

Hawkins, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., finished in 10th place in the 1-meter diving event, 12th in the 3-meter event and a career-best fifth in the platform event. He earned All-America honors in the platform event, scoring 440.85 points, and honorable mention All-America honors in the 1- and 3-meter events.

A freshman, Shinholser made a splash at his first career NCAA Championship, earning All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the platform event. He scored 316.10 points in the finals. Junior Kyle Butts took home 20th place in the platform event with a score of 302.45.

“What an awesome privilege it’s been to coach Ryan [Hawkins] throughout his career,” Piemonte said. “If you look at the top scores from this week, it’s been such a close meet throughout, and he did an outstanding job on all three levels.

“As for T.J., I couldn’t be more proud of him. Making the top eight and being an All-American in his first season is an amazing accomplishment. I was so proud of the divers at this meet, in all their events, and the way they finished off a great season.”

On the swimming side, Higgins, a junior, broke his own Tech record and set a new ACC record in the 200 backstroke, clocking 1:40.10 to win the consolation final. The performance earned Higgins ninth place and the first honorable mention All-America honor of his career.

On the women’s side, Tech finished 24th, marking the third straight year in which the Hokies have finished in the top 25. Georgia took home the team championship.

Diver Kaylea Arnett paced the Hokies by earning three All-America honors. Arnett, a junior from Spring Hill, Texas, took third in the 1-meter event and 10th in the 3-meter event. In the platform event, she came in 15th.

Arnett’s performance in the 1-meter event earned her All-America status, while her performances in the latter two earned her honorable mention All-America honors. Her third-place finish in the 1-meter marked the best finish ever, man or woman, by a Tech swimmer or diver at the NCAA Championship.

Sophomore Weronika Paluszek added to the team total with a 10th-place finish in the 200 breaststroke, earning her honorable mention All-America honors. She swam the race in a time of 2:08.51. She also finished 15th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.41, earning her honorable mention All-America honors in that event as well.

“We are very pleased with our third consecutive top-25 finish,” Skinner said. “Our ladies all competed with gusto, and I’m very proud of their desire to perform for the cause. Kaylea had an outstanding week to score on all three levels, and Weronika had a very strong swim to secure a 24th-place finish for us.”