BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - University of California San Diego senior Gabriel Hernandez sped to a school record in achieving a third-place finish and All-America distinction in the 400-yard individual medley to highlight day two of the 2017 NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships at the CrossPlex. The city of Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Huntsville are serving as co-hosts.
Hernandez timed 3:48.52, lowering his own school standard which previously stood at 3:49.95 from last month's conference meet, by almost a full second and a half. The first-year transfer from Golden West College and member of the Venezuela national team was in second for much of the championship final, behind Simon Fraser's Adrian VanderHelm. Queens junior Nicholas Arakelian, however, the two-time defending champion and top seed going in, was lurking after a slow butterfly leg, and surged ahead over the remainder of the race to win handily in 3:45.01. Hernandez ultimately lost his tug of war with VanderHelm, overtaking him at one point before falling behind again on the final turn heading into the last 25 yards of freestyle. VanderHelm touched out the Triton by a mere .45 seconds in 3:48.07.
Hernandez went 3:50.71 in morning preliminaries, good enough for fourth-fastest after entering the competition as the No. 5 seed. He led the fourth of five heats wire to wire, winning easily by 1.71 seconds.
The Triton men moved up from 22nd to 17th with 44 points. The women remain in 19th, having accumulated 33 points through 10 of 21 total events. Queens of Charlotte, N.C., the men's and women's reigning champion, leads both standings.
Kevin Wylder picked up All-America honorable mention with a 13th-place showing in the 100 fly (48.45). The junior was an identical 13th after his prelim race (48.21).
All three of UCSD's relay entries on Thursday also garnered All-America honorable mentions. The women's 200 free relay of juniors Haley Murphy, Angie Phetbenjakul and Sarah Yao, and senior anchor Natalie Tang, went 1:34.43 for sixth in the consolation final and 14th overall. The same foursome, though in the different order of Phetbenjakul, Tang, Yao and Murphy, was 12th after prelims (1:34.15).
The women's 400 medley relay of junior Alex Rodman (Coronado/Coronado HS), Phetbenjakul, junior Jayna Wittenbrink and Murphy led for the entirety of the consolation final and combined for a mark of 3:45.91 to win by almost two seconds for ninth overall. The foursome, with junior Julia Toronczak (Santee/West Hills HS) as the leadoff backstroke leg, missed the championship final by a single spot, in ninth after prelims in 3:46.96.
Senior Michael Cohn (Solana Beach/Grossmont College), freshman Edgar Chin, sophomore Garrett Tse and Wylder went a season-best 3:16.94 for third in the consolation final and 11th overall in the men's 400 medley relay to conclude the meet's second night. The Tritons were also 11th-fastest in the morning (3:17.80).
Sophomore Brooke Abrantes (San Diego/Santana HS) became the first Triton female diver to compete in the main draw of the NCAA Championships, since Jennie Margrave as a senior in 2006. Abrantes dove 11 times in trials of the one-meter springboard event, and produced a score of 355.00, narrowly missing out on being a point-getter in 17th.
Remaining Tritons in prelim action Thursday were senior Zach Yong in the 400 IM (31st, 4:03.32), freshman Brooke Miles (28th, 58.19) and Tse (22nd, 48.81) in the 100 fly, and Tang (30th, season-best 1:52.19), sophomore Reagan Eickert (32nd, 1:52.38), Toronczak (33rd, 1:52.59) and Cohn (20th, 1:38.86) in the 200 free. Yong, a fourth-year senior, turned in his final 400 IM race in a UCSD cap, as the program's record-holder in the event prior to the arrival of Hernandez this season.
The NCAA Championships continue on Friday, March 10, with morning prelims beginning at 8:30 a.m. PT, and evening finals at 4 p.m. PT. The lineup consists of the 500 free, 100 back, 100 breast, 200 fly and 800 free relay. All sessions can be watched live online, free of charge, at NCAA.com/live, with live results here.
Triton Notes: Through two days in Alabama, the Tritons have compiled one All-America nod and two school records, all by Gabriel Hernandez, alongside 24 All-America honorable mentions ... First through eighth placements at the NCAA meet constitute All-America, with ninth through 16th good for All-America honorable mention ... Hernandez's winning swim in the consolation final of Wednesday's 200 IM was his first school record of the meet, also lowering his own standard ... Hernandez has posted six school-record swims this season.