March 7, 2002
ATLANTA – After its second-place finish at the 2002 ACC Championships, the Georgia Tech men’s swimming and diving team proved that last year’s ground-breaking third-place finish was no fluke and that it belongs among the conference and national elite.
The Jackets posted 580.5 points, finishing behind four-time defending champion Virginia and ahead of perennial power North Carolina.
“We were pleasantly surprised at the performance of our men’s team at the ACC Championships,” said head coach Seth Baron. “All year long, they kept talking about being second and sure enough, when it counted, they did it.”
“We are proud of each and every one of the athletes. Moving up another spot at the ACC Championships is going to have a positive affect on all aspects of our team.”
And this was truly a team effort, as five Yellow Jackets earned all-conference honors a total of eight times. Entering this year’s championships, only nine Tech swimmers or divers had earned that distinction in the program’s history.
In addition to a best-ever finish and a record number of All-ACC honorees, the Jackets also had a number of noteworthy happenings. Junior All-American Shilo Ayalon earned all-conference honors in three different events, the 500 and 1650 free and the 400 IM. He placed second in all three events and automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 1650.
Senior David Laitala became the first Tech swimmer to earn all-conference honors in three consecutive seasons, as he placed first in the 100 fly and second in the 200 IM. His win in the 100 fly is just the second individual win at the ACC Championships in Tech history and first since Brandon Lumm captured the three-meter diving crown in 1994.
Speaking of diving, sophomore Paul McCarty made quite a splash at the event, earning All-ACC honors in the one-meter diving with a score of 295.20. He is the first Jacket diver to earn such accolades since Lumm in 1996. McCarty also placed sixth in the three-meter event.
The Jackets also rewrote the school record book, posting 14 school record swims. Multiple record setters include: Ayalon (500 free, 1000 free, 400 IM), Hersko (50, 100 free) and Laitala (100 fly, 200 IM). The Jackets also clocked records in all five relays, including NCAA “B” cuts in the 400 medley and 800 free relays.
As mentioned, Ayalon moves on to the NCAA Championships, slated for March 28-30 in Athens, Ga. Several of his teammates with provisional times will hope to improve their chances of qualifying Saturday at the Auburn Last Chance Meet. Tech finished 29th at nationals a year ago, with Ayalon and Tomonori Tsuji earning All-American honors.
Cara DeVinny, a freshman for the Jackets’ first-year women’s team, has also earned a trip to NCAAs, posting an automatic qualifying mark in the 400 IM. The women’s event is March 21-23 in Austin, Texas.
The runner-up finish, as well as the growing women’s program, is a testament to just how far the program has come under Baron, a fifth-year head coach. When he took the helm for the 1997-98 season, he inherited a squad that had finished dead last in the ACC for the last three seasons. He took the team to back-to-back seventh-place finishes in 1998 and ’99 and moved up to sixth in 2000. Tech broke through with a third-place finish a year ago, and this year’s finish proves the Jackets are here to stay.
“Our rise in the ACC over the past five years has made our conference a better and stronger swimming conference,” added Baron. “As we have just about accomplished every goal at the ACC level, we will be concentrating just as hard on our goals for the NCAA Championships.”