GENEVA, Ohio - In his final breaststroke race for UC San Diego, senior co-captain Nicholas Korth won the 200 in career-defining, record-breaking and redemptive fashion on the final night of the 2014 NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships.
Korth dominated the back half of the final individual race of the four-day meet, and took the title in his specialty in 1:54.45, both a Division II national and school record. He entered the event as the favorite with the top time nationally this season of 1:56.26, and went 1:57.38 in morning preliminaries, winning the fourth of four heats by a full body length, with his mark still only second-best by over a second and a half to Queens junior Niclas Eriksson’s 1:55.58.
In the final, Korth was .18 seconds behind Eriksson at the 50-yard mark, and only .01 seconds up after 100 yards. That’s when the Santa Clarita native turned it on, swimming more than a second faster over each of the final two 50-yard segments and winning going away by over two seconds, with Eriksson well behind at 1:56.76.
It all came full circle for Korth, who won the 200 breast as just a freshman in 2011, also in a record time for Division II of 1:57.19. He then placed third in the 200 in 2012 (1:57.45) and second in 2013 (then-school-record 1:54.61), behind national champion Eetu Karvonen of Grand Canyon in both meets. The native of Finland turned in Division II records of 1:56.11 in the 2012 final and 1:54.57 in 2013, with both he and Korth in fact getting under the meet standard in the riveting latter match-up. On Saturday night, Korth moved his nemesis down a peg in the Division II record book by .12 seconds. He again lowered his own school mark by .16.
Korth had earlier in the week placed seventh in the 50 free and touched third in the 100 breast. He leaves the UCSD program as the individual record-holder in both breaststroke distances, a two-time national champion and 18-time All-American.
“Nick swam a smart but aggressive race, which is representative of his career, always thinking and always laying it on the line,” said co-head coach Corrie Falcon. “Throughout his career, he’s gone the extra mile, and tonight it paid off.”
As a team, the UCSD men ultimately placed seventh for the second year in a row, moving up from eighth on the final day and totaling 229 points. The Triton women remained in fifth with 248.5 points, left out of the top four for the first time in their 14 years at the Division II level. Drury, out of Springfield, Mo., swept the competitions, easily winning for the 10th year in a row on the men’s side, and for the fifth time in six years on the women’s ahead of 2012 champion Wayne State.
The four-day meet had begun on Wednesday morning, co-hosted by Edinboro and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission at the SPIRE Institute Natatorium in Geneva, about 45 miles east of Cleveland.
UCSD had seven individuals in all advance into evening finals on Saturday. The Tritons garnered eight more All-America placements to give them 41 for the week.
Fourth-year Triton Luke Calkins took the last spot in finals of three-meter springboard diving by a mere .3 points with an eighth-place preliminary showing, earning 473.60 points over 11 attempts. That effort guaranteed him his first career All-America finish after four previous honorable mentions. The two-time Academic All-American wound up in eighth overall following the championship final (466.95).
Making the first individual final of her college days, Jaimie Bryan placed in a tie for seventh (2:16.79) in the 200 breast. Her prelim time of 2:16.67 was a personal best. Fellow freshman Austine Lee was 16th (2:20.17) after winning the first of four prelim heats in a personal-record 2:18.77. A third rookie, Zach Yong, was 12th in the 200 breast after a pair of best times (1:59.53; 1:59.84 prelims).
Sophomore Colleen Daley made the consolation final of the 100 free (season-best 51.02) before placing 15th (51.36) at night.
The women’s 400 free relay of junior Sierra Robbins, Shakya, Daley and freshman anchor Catherine Woo timed a season-best 3:23.58, just off the school record of 3:23.42, for fifth. The foursome, with Shakya and Robbins in the opposite order, won the second of three morning heats in 3:25.26, with Daley overtaking Wingate (3:25.40) during her split and Woo holding off the challenge.
The men’s 400 free relay of junior Jack Galvan, Korth, senior Reid McCallum and sophomore Cole Heale went a season-best 3:00.53 in prelims but had to settle for the consolation final, where they swam another season best of 2:59.17 for 11th, with Galvan and Heale switching places.
Those final two relay events put a cap on the Triton careers of Shakya, Korth and McCallum. Shakya wound up as a 19-time All-American, McCallum a six.
“When you factor everything in, this was a really successful four days for both of our teams,” concluded co-head coach Matt Macedo. “Two national champions, seven school records and fifth- and seventh-place team finishes in what was likely the fastest meet in the history of this event, I’m really proud of what we did.
“On the women’s side, we watched a ton of talent and role players walk out the door last year. We knew the potential was there, but to see it come together and make it happen with depth was gratifying.
“For the men, Nick Korth really carried this team. We had a lot of younger guys who were seeing this level for the first time, and he has left a mark that, hopefully, will have a positive effect for years to come.”
Triton Notes: UCSD set seven school records at the meet, with both 200 medley relays and Sean Malley’s 50 backstroke split on Wednesday, Naomi Thomas in the 100 butterfly on Thursday, Nicholas Korth in the 100 breaststroke and the women’s 800 free relay on Friday night, and Korth again on Saturday … The men’s 200 medley relay actually matched the school record it had broken in morning prelims Wednesday, in the championship final at night.