The Final Four was not the only NCAA Championship happening in Georgia this past weekend. Northeast of Atlanta, in Athens, Ga., the University of Georgia hosted the 2002 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships.
The Yale men’s swimming team sent one swimmer, Mike Schulte ’02, to the meet. Schulte competed in both the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle. This was Schulte’s first trip to the NCAA Championships.
“[Going to the NCAA’s has] been my goal since I’ve been at Yale,” Schulte said. “I was just really happy and proud that I was able to represent Yale at one of the fastest meets in the world.”
Schulte swam the fastest time of his career in the 500-yard freestyle. His time of 4:25.52 placed him 28th in the preliminary heat. While Schulte failed to qualify for the final round, he did shave over two-tenths of a second off his third-place finish time from the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet.
In the 1,650-yard freestyle, Schulte finished in 15:15.66, good for 18th place. The senior swimmer already holds the school record for the 1,650-yard freestyle, which he set at the H-Y-P meet.
While pleased with his performance in the 500-yard freestyle, Schulte said he was disappointed that he did not finish in the top 16 in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Had he done so, Schulte would have scored points for Yale.
“I wanted to be faster,” Schulte said. “I wanted to score at the meet, if I had gone a second faster, I would have scored.”
Schulte faced arguably the toughest competition of his career, as each event in the meet is open to only the 25 top-ranked swimmers in that event.
“I knew the meet was going to be extra fast,” Schulte said. “I’d swum with a lot of the guys at National meets in the summer, so I knew how fast they were.”
Texas won its third straight NCAA championship, narrowly beating Stanford. The two teams were separated by just 11 points, the second-slimmest margin of victory since the 16-place point system was established in 1984. Harvard finished the highest among the Ivy League schools that sent swimmers. The Crimson swimmers totaled 42 points, taking 17th place.
As for Schulte, he finishes his Yale career with school records in both the 1,650-yard freestyle and the 800-yard freestyle relay.
“I’m extremely lucky; this sport’s been really great to me,” Schulte said. “I’ve learned so much and met so many great people.”