Men’s 400 freestyle relay wins national title, UChicago swimming and diving excels at final day of NCAA Championships

The 400-yard freestyle relay national champions
The 400-yard freestyle relay national champions

Post-race interview with 400-yard freestyle relay

SHENANDOAH, Texas – The University of Chicago men's 400-yard freestyle relay team won a national championship in dramatic fashion to lead the Maroon swimming and diving teams at the final day of the NCAA Division III Championships on Saturday.

The women's team championship was claimed by Emory University (603 points), and the Maroons took 13th with 82 points. Kenyon College won the men's team title with 468 points and UChicago placed 14th with 94 points scored.

The big highlight of the night came in the final race of the four-day meet – the men's 400-yard freestyle relay. After the morning prelims, the UChicago quartet of sophomore Mantim Lee, junior Thomas Meek, sophomore Jeremy Estes and junior Matthew Veldman was seeded fourth and in position to challenge for the top spot. All four swimmers came out fast in the final and once the intense race ended, UChicago was tied for first with The College of New Jersey with matching times of 2:57.85. Both schools were awarded national championships in the event. The Maroons broke the school record in the process.

"I was really nervous going into the event, mainly because I didn't want them to disqualify another relay, especially since we had disqualified a couple relays earlier in the meet," said Head Coach Jason Weber. "After we had some great swims on the morning relay and were seeded fourth, just a couple tenths behind second, I thought we could have a shot if we did well at night. I even told the guys before the relay that with some good swims anything could happen, knowing they would rise to the occasion in the moment.

"Every guy on that relay went the fastest they had ever gone," Weber continued, "and after Jeremy pulled us even after the third leg, everyone started going crazy because Matt always has great anchor legs under pressure. When he touched the wall and we saw the No. 1 by Chicago, it was pandemonium. Just amazing."

Six individuals and two relays achieved All-American status for the Maroons on the last day of competition. Their grand total of All-Americans for the meet was 13 individuals and seven relays.

The senior diving duo of Matthew Staab and Anthony Restaino wrapped up their collegiate careers as Honorable Mention All-Americans in the men's three-meter dive. Staab was 10th with 494.05 points and Restaino was 14th with 462.35 points.

The women's 200-yard backstroke saw the Maroons advance two swimmers to the finals. Sophomore Alison Wall got things rolling with a school record time of 1:59.87 in the prelims. She ended up taking seventh and gained All-America honors in 2:01.60. Freshman teammate Khia Kurtenbach was Honorable Mention All-American after taking 13th in 2:02.07.

Senior Jennifer Hill set a school record of her own in the women's 200-yard breaststroke, racing to a prelims time of 2:19.66. In the final, Hill placed 15th and was Honorable Mention All-American (2:20.37).

Wall and Hill then combined to bookend the women's 400-yard freestyle relay as the lead and anchor legs, respectively. Alongside sophomore Maya Scheidl and junior Jen Law, the Maroon foursome achieved Honorable Mention All-American status by finishing 14th in 3:28.40.

Sophomore Cara LoPiano was also an Honorable Mention All-American. She swam a time of 17:13.86 in the 1,650-yard freestyle, which was good for 15th place.

UChicago Top Finishers (Men)
400-yard freestyle relay – 1st, 2:57.85 (Mantim Lee, Thomas Meek, Jeremy Estes, Matthew Veldman)
Three-meter dive – Matthew Staab (10th, 494.05); Anthony Restaino (14th, 462.35)
100-yard freestyle (PRELIMS) – Thomas Meek (19th, 45.08); Matthew Veldman (31st, 45.61); Connor Turkatte (44th, 48.62)
200-yard breaststroke (PRELIMS) – James Taylor (20th, 2:04.42)

UChicago Top Finishers (Women)
200-yard backstroke – Alison Wall (7th, 2:01.60); Khia Kurtenbach (13th, 2:02.07)
400-yard freestyle relay – 14th, 3:28.40 (Alison Wall, Maya Scheidl, Jen Law, Jennifer Hill)
200-yard breaststroke – Jennifer Hill (15th, 2:20.37)
1,650-yard freestyle – Cara LoPiano (15th, 17:13.86); Karen Chu (19th, 17:21.32)
200-yard backstroke (PRELIMS) – Melissa Bischoff (33rd, 2:10.51)
100-yard freestyle (PRELIMS) – Maya Scheidl (40th, 52.60)