Feb. 26, 2003
ATLANTA – Having earned a program-best second-place finish a year ago, the Georgia Tech men’s swimming and diving team (4-7, 2-3 ACC) hopes to at least duplicate that performance this season, as the 2003 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships begin Thursday at the University of North Carolina’s Koury Natatorium. The meet runs through Saturday with preliminary sessions startling at 11 a.m., followed by finals 7 p.m.
The Jackets are led by four all-conference returnees: senior distance swimmer Shilo Ayalon, senior sprinter Josh Hersko, junior diver Paul McCarty and senior backstroke and butterfly standout James Salazar.
A two-time All-American, Ayalon ranks as the Jackets’ top performer this season. He owns NCAA “B” cuts in both the 500- and 1650-yard freestyle with team-best times of 4:26.83 and 15:15.19, respectively. He also ranks as the team’s best in the 400 IM with a time of 3:57.90. Ayalon placed second in each of these events a year ago and ranks among the league’s top five in all three events this season.
Hersko, who was second in the 100 free a year ago, ranks as Tech’s top performer this season with a time of 46.60. McCarty owns team-best scores, as well as NCAA Zone Qualifying marks, on both the one- and three-meter boards. He was third in the one-meter event last season. Salazar, who placed third in the 200 back in 2002, returns as Tech’s top performer in that event this season with a time of 1:49.69.
In addition to the All-ACC returnees, the Jackets are expecting big things from the senior breaststroke tandem of Tomonori Tsuji and Robbie Foster. Both rank among the league’s top 10 in the 100 breast, while Tsuji stands among the top seven in both the 100 and 200 breast. Other impact swimmers for Tech include sophomores Matt Figh, junior Itai Eden and sophomore Jeremy Raines.
Four-time defending champion Virginia is ranked ninth nationally and enters as the favorite. The Cavaliers scored 872 points in 2002, while second-place Tech tallied 580.5 points. North Carolina took third with 501.5 points. The Tar Heels are ranked 25th in the latest CSCAA Top 25 Poll this season.
After finishing seventh for the second consecutive season in 1999, Tech has improved its finish at the conference championships in each of the last three years.