Flurry of Personal and Program Records Highlight the Utah Men’s Pac-12 Swimming Championship


Jack Gambassi

A University of Utah swimmer races during the intrasquad swim meet on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 at Ute Natatorium on campus in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Austin Eames, Sports Writer


The pools at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center weren’t left vacant for long, as the Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships continued with men’s swimming on Wednesday, March 1.  

The championship marked the men’s first competition since a narrow loss to USC on Feb. 10. Despite the loss, the Utes’ men have put together several strong showings throughout the season — especially against rival BYU, whom the Utah men beat ​​163-137 and where swimmers like Evan VanBrocklin secured key race victories. 

Coming into the 2023 conference championships, the Utes looked to further improve individual race times from the season and put together a compelling team showing against a strong field of conference competitors. 

Day One

Day one of the meet began with two team relay finals, namely, the 200 medley relay and 800 free relay. The Utes saw the most success in the former, as a team of Andrei UngurJaek HornerRyan Garstang and Finn O’Haimhirgin cruised to a meet-opening bronze medal. 

Ungur, Horner, Garstang, and O’Haimhirgin finished the swim in a time of 1:24:45, less than one second behind second place and ahead of USC’s medley team. 

Interestingly, the Utes chose to put forward a different combination of men for the conference championship than they did during the intrasquad meet against USC. This time around, Garstang replaced Marko Kovacic and in turn helped the squad surpass the 1:25.53 time set against USC three weeks ago. 

However, Kovacic didn’t leave the day empty-handed and instead led the Utes’ fastest 800-free relay team to a sixth-place finish overall. VanBrocklinNoah Carlson and Davis Stachelek swam alongside Kovacic, a junior from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and clocked in at 6:30.46. The time was around six seconds faster than the team’s seed time of 6:36.56 and resulted in an overall strong placement among a very fast field of teams. 

After day one of the meet, the Utes sat second overall in team scoring, only trailing USC who led with a score of 198 points. 

Day Two

Day two of the meet was marked by two top-10 school records for the Utes. In the day’s first event, the men’s 500 freestyle, both VanBrocklin and freshman Brandon Miller posted quick times. VanBrocklin placed better out of the two swimmers, finishing 20th with a final time of 4:24.31, but it was Miller who scored the Utes’ fastest time of the day.

In the preliminary round, Miller swam a time of 4:24.29, mere milliseconds faster than VanBrocklin’s final. Notably, Miller’s time was good enough for tenth overall on the Utes’ all-time list for the event. Although VanBrocklin did not post a top-10 time this year, he still holds the Utes’ sixth-best time in the event, which he set in 2022 (4:23.06).

Another record was set during the men’s 200 freestyle relay. The event, which consists of four individual 50-yard swims, is a quick and competitive race where milliseconds can mean a difference. Ungur was the leadoff man for the Utes. The fifth-year swimmer from Romania swam a lightning-fast 19.80 second 50 freestyle in the leadoff position. The time was good enough for the tenth-fastest 50 free ever by a Ute. 

It’s worth noting that although Ungur’s teammates in the 200 free relay had faster splits — O’Haimhirgin with 19.23, JP Hynes with a 19.39, and Horner with a 19.60 — each swimmer started with a relay start, thus disqualifying them from the all-time fastest 50 freestyle list. 

Day Three

The Utes’ best individual finish of the tournament came on day three after Ungur took home the silver medal in the 100-yard backstroke final. 

Ungur’s 45.00-second swim in the 100 backstroke was the swimmer’s fastest time ever in the event, beating his previous fastest time by .05 seconds. Even more impressive, Ungur’s time set the record for the fastest time ever by a Ute in the 100 backstroke. 

In a day filled with Ute swimmers setting school records, another notable swim came from Horner, who broke the program record in the 100 breaststroke. With a time of 51.78, Horner placed fourth overall in the 2023 championship while also breaking the swimmer’s (and program’s) previous record of 51.88, set at the Big Al Invitational in 2022. 

Additionally, both Ungur and Horner’s day three swims were also good enough to count as NCAA Championship Qualifying B times for each event. 

Day Four

Day four of the meet marked the final day of a long season for many of the Utah athletes. Similar to the previous days of the meet, a plethora of personal and program records provided the team with great success. 

The day began with the meet’s longest race, the 1650 freestyle. Miller was the fastest Ute in the event, improving on his prelim time by almost 20 seconds with a final time of 15:13.64. Miller’s time was also good enough for the sixth-fastest ever by a Ute in the event. 

Further success could be found in the next event by none other than Ungur. With a time of 1:41.03 in the 200 backstroke, the swimmer not only placed 10th overall in a very strong field but also swam the Utes’ fastest time ever in the event. 

The time was three-tenths of a second faster than the previous record set all the way back in 2018 by Daniel McArthur (1:41.38). Ungur’s time also clocked the tenth fastest time ever by a Pac-12 athlete.

The team’s next personal triumph came when Kovacic swam a time of 1:44.56 in the 200 butterfly final. The 200 butterfly is one of the hardest races in all of swimming, but Kovacic prevailed. His time bested a previous personal record of 1:44.96 and boosted the swimmer to second all-time on the program records list for the event.

Overall, the Utes men’s swimming team placed sixth in team scoring with a final point total of 300.5. While the team’s final placement may be disappointing at first glance, it is important to consider that plenty of individual and team success was found during the tournament. Many swimmers put together personal best times to round out the season, and the Utes showed that they have a strong young core good enough to compete with the best next season. 

“I’m really proud of the way our men competed this week,” associate coach Jos Smith told Utah Athletics. “Andrei continued to swim fast and broke the school record in the 200 back. We finished off the meet with a fourth place finish in the 400 free relay. It was great to see our guys compete and excel in the fastest conference in America.”

On Monday, March 6, the Utah diving team will come back to Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington to compete in the NCAA Diving Zone E competition. 


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