Utah Swim and Dive Dominates at Big Al Invitational


University of Utah Utes men’s swimming and diving team performs during a dual meet vs. University of Southern California at the Ute Natatoriam in Salt Lake City on Feb. 23, 2020. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Max Lepore, Sports Writer


From Dec. 3-5, the University of Utah swim and dive men and women’s team competed for the first time ever in the Big Al Invitational in Princeton, New Jersey. In an invitational that included Princeton, Denver, George Washington, Rutgers, TCU and Columbia, the Utes were able to win with both their men’s and women’s teams. The men finished in first place with a final score of 1075.5 while the women finished in first with a final score of 1005. 

The Utes kicked off the weekend in Princeton on Friday, Dec. 3. They were able to earn four outright event victories with the men and women both coming out on top with scores of 345.5 and 322 respectively.

The free relay team events were highlights for both of the teams. The women’s 200 free relay took first in the event, finishing with a final time of 1:31:33. The team consisted of Casarin Layre, Madeline Woznick, Kayla Miller and Emma Lawless. The men’s 200 free team also finished first in the event with a time of 1:18:66. That team consisted of Cooper Deryk, Finn O’Haimhirgin, Santi Contreras and Lucas Calderon.

The men also placed four total athletes in the top-10 free, with Deryk tying for first with Jonas Kistorp of Columbia, with a time of 19.76. O’Haimhirgin finished not far behind in fourth with a time of 20.09, and Contreras with his time of 20.14 finishing in sixth place.

On the diving side, Lexi Mills and Holly Waxman helped the Utes earn second and third in the 3m dive with scores of 303.25 and 284.10, respectively.

For the men’s diving team, Tony Chen and Luke McDivitt continued their dominant performances in the early season. They earned first and second respectively in the 1m. Chen scored 340.05 while McDivitt earned 337.40. This score moves up McDivitt to ninth all-time at the University of Utah and is a personal record for the athlete. The strong performances from both the men and women swim and dive teams helped the Utes finish the first day of competition on top.

The Utes came back Saturday night to continue the Big Al Invitational. The men finished the day with a total score of 748.5, up on the 688 host Princeton. The women finished the day with a score of 678, up on the 548 Princeton.

The men were able to find victory in the first event of the evening with their 200 medley team. The team consisting of Andrei Ungur, Andrew Britton, Deryk and O’Haimhirgin earned the victory with a final time of 1:24.47.

Marko Kovacic, a freshman who has already had quite the decorated season, won the 200 free with a time of 1:35.61. O’Haimhirgin was not far behind in third with a time of 1:36.93.

Directly following the free, the Utes earned a victory in the 100 breast with Jaek Horner and his time of 53:04. Ungur also gave the Utes another victory by earning the title in the 100 back with a time of 46:06.

On the diving side of things, Chen earned a second-place finish in the 3m with a score of 392.40 while freshman Ben Smyth earned fourth with a score of 290.05.

The women’s team also found great success on Saturday evening. Kayla Miller was able to earn second in the 100 breast with a time of 1:02.58 while Charity Pittard finished in third with a time of 1:02.69. 

For the women’s dive team, it was again Waxman who stood out, finishing fourth on the 1m dive with a score of 267.25. She narrowly missed the top-3 podium by just one point, and Mills followed her with a seventh-place finish and a score of 250.85. 

As the Utes swim and dive men’s and women’s teams had dominated throughout the first two days, they felt great going into Sunday’s finals which marked the end of the first half of the season.

On Sunday, Dec. 5, Utah took home first place in the Big Al Invitational. Beating out second-place host Princeton, both the men’s and women’s teams showed they are a force to be reckoned with. It was the team’s first victory of the season, and it was done in a dominant fashion.

The women’s team wasted no time on Sunday. Freshmen Marlene Sandberg and Taylor Kabacy finished first and second in the 1650 free with times of 16:35.45 and 16:37.52 respectively.

In the 200 back, Emma Lawless and Norah Hay finished second and third respectively, with times of 1:56.61 and 1:57.69. 

Leyre Casarin was able to earn another victory for the lady Utes in the 100 freestyle with a finishing time of 49.30. Pittard was able to follow Casarin’s win by a victory of her own in the 200 breast with a final time of 2:12.53. 

The women’s team, which is full of freshmen and sophomores, showed that they were ready to compete against some of the top teams in the nation.

The men’s team was also able to find incredible success on Sunday. The biggest highlight may have been the 100 free, as five swimmers place in the top 10 in the event. O’Haimhirgin and JP Hynes beat out Princeton’s Max Walters with times of 43.66 and 43.93 to finish first and second respectively. 

The Utes were able to secure their victory as their 400 A and B relay teams finished first and second. The B team of Cooper, Deryk, Ungur, Contreras and Calderon earned the victory with a time of 2:05.42 while the A team of Horner, Hynes, Kovacic and O’Haimhirgin finished second with a final time of 2:55.51.

For the men’s diving team, it was again Smyth who dominated on the platform with a score of 398.95, setting a DeNunzio pool record.

Waxman and Mills also again finished inside the top 10, with places of sixth (217.50) and seventh (216.30) respectively.

Head diving coach Richard Marschner was very pleased with the results. 

“We had a great overall meet with 10 personal bests and a pool record set by Ben on the platform,” Marschner said via Utah Athletics. “It was another really solid invite for us and we’re looking really good going into the second half of the season. I’m excited for us to get some training in and continue our excellence after the break.”

As Marschner mentioned, the Utes have a break before they begin their second half of the season. They won’t compete again until their dual meets with Arizona State on Friday, Jan. 14 and Saturday, Jan. 15. The Utes will look to build on their Princeton success, as they continue to work towards head coach Joe Dykstra’s season goal of finishing in the top 20 in the nation.


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