March 27, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas -
Alabama freshman Kristian Gkolomeev uncorked a huge swim on the first day of his first NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, winning the 50 freestyle with a school record 18.95 in Austin, Texas Thursday night.
Gkolomeev, who joined the Crimson Tide in January for the spring semester, is Alabama's first NCAA Champion since Vlad Polyakov won the 200 breaststroke in 2007. He is also the first NCAA Champion under second-year head coach Dennis Pursley.
"I don't know what to say," Gkolomeev said after the race. "I didn't expect that. I'm a freshman and that's awesome. I have three more years. This is the best."
Gkolomeev's winning time makes him the first Alabama swimmer under 19 seconds in the 50 and gives him the first 50 freestyle title in school history. Jonty Skinner, Alabama's Associate Head Coach, who coached Gkolomeev on the way to the title, was the first UA swimmer to win an NCAA Championship when he won the NCAA 100 freestyle title - as a freshman - in 1975.
"What a great race," Pursley said. "I couldn't tell what the outcome was until if flashed up on the score board. Our guys are all fired up and ready to take today and roll into the rest of the meet."
Alabama finished off the night with its first top-eight NCAA relay finish since 2006 when the 400 medley relay took eight place. Freshman Connor Oslin led off the relay with a school record 46.33 while freshman Anton McKee, sophomore Brett Walsh and senior BJ Hornikel brought home the relay in a time of 3:07.68.
The 50 freestyle title and a strong showing in the 400 medley relay turned around a tough start for the Tide, during which the 200 freestyle relay was disqualified at the beginning of Thursday's finals due to an early start.
Despite the disqualification, Alabama is 10th in the team standings with 40.5 points. Texas, the championship's host, is No. 1 after day one with 146 points while California is second with 145 points.
During prelims, Hornikel posted the best NCAA 50 freestyle finish of his career, taking 19th with a time of 19.51 after finishing 21st with a 19.72 a year ago.
Day two of the NCAA Championships will see Alabama will compete in the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays as well as the 200 freestyles and 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke.