March 7, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The Alabama men's swimming and diving team will send sophomores BJ Hornikel and Alex Coci to the upcoming NCAA Championships which will be held in Federal Way, Wash. Both men will be making their national championship debut.
"This is the hardest meet in the world to qualify for," UA head coach Eric McIlquham said. "This year you had to be one of the top-18 swimmers in the nation to earn an invitation, which is just amazing."
Hornikel, who earned runner-up finishes in both the 100 and 200 freestyles as well as second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors at last month's Southeastern Conference Championships, qualified to swim the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles at the NCAA Championships. Hornikel is seeded seventh in the 200 freestyle and 11th in the 100 freestyle.
"BJ has had a tremendous sophomore season and is primed to keep that rolling at NCAAs," McIlquham said. "He only lost one 100 freestyle race all season, when he was second in the finals of the SEC Championships. He's seeded in the top-12 in both the 100 and 200 freestyle and has a great opportunity to have a big meet in Seattle."
Hornikel is ranked second all-time at Alabama in both the 100 and 200 freestyle behind four-time Olympic gold medalist Jon Olsen.
Coci, who finished fifth in both the 100 and 200 butterfly at the SEC Championships and third in the 100-meter butterfly at the USA Winter National Championships, qualified for NCAAs in the 100 and 200 butterfly. He is seeded 14th in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:44.37.
"Alex has really made some big strides this season and continues to improve week by week," McIlquham said. "He has a chance to make some real noise in the butterfly events."
Coci ranks second all-time for the Tide in the 100 butterfly, less than two-tenths of a second off the school record set by two-time Olympian and current UA assistant coach Stefan Gherghel. Coci is also fourth all-time in the 200 butterfly, a quarter of second behind Olympic gold medalist Jon Sieben.
The men's NCAA Championships will be held in the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center March 22-24.