March 17, 2007
HOUSTON, Texas - Senior Craig Edwards and Freshman Rastislav Racz each earned All-America status in their individual events on Friday evening, while the 200-yard medley relay team achieved the same feat to help propel the Engineers up to 10th-place out of 50 scoring schools after day two of the NCAA Championships. Edwards finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke and Racz placed sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke, while the two combined with freshmen Jeff Zhou and Luke Cummings for the medley relay.
Kenyon College jumped out to a huge lead in its quest for an unprecedented 28th consecutive national championship and will take 373.5 points into the final day of competition. Second-place Denison University has racked up 245 points, while Emory University (201) rounds out the top three. MIT has amassed 80 points over the first two days in Houston.
Friday morning's events got underway with the prelims of the 200-yard medley relay, and the squad representing the Cardinal and Gray did not disappoint. Edwards, Racz, Zhou and Cummings entered the event with a national-ranking of sixth and a seed time of 1:33.42 and made that ranking stand up with a sixth-place finish in prelims. They then matched that result in the finals with a time of 1:33.46 to earn 26 points and All-America status.
Freshman phenom Racz then earned his first individual All-America recognition by finishing sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke with an Institute record time of 56.37, raising the Engineers' score by 13 points in the process. The native of Bratislava, Slovakia, had entered the event ranked 10th in the country with a seed time of 57.15 and set himself up for the finals with a fifth-place finish in prelims.
The 100-yard backstroke closed out the day for MIT, and Edwards gave the Cardinal and Gray its best finish of the afternoon with a fourth-place showing, good enough for 15 points. Entering the event ranked eighth with a seed time of 51.42, the native of Brookfield, Conn., pushed his prelim time to 51.10 to earn sixth-place and a spot in the championship finals. He then did himself one better, finishing fourth in the finals with a time of 51.42 to earn All-America honors in the backstroke for the fifth time in his illustrious career.
Head coach Dawn Gerken, though clearly elated with the performances of all of her athletes, was more impressed with the leadership shown by Edwards, who is competing in his third national championships.
"This whole weekend he has just been such a leader," she said. "He's a seasoned veteran at the national level and he's really shown that over the past couple of days, as he's stepped up and raised his game when it's mattered most. More importantly, he's been a role model for the three freshmen that are here with him. I can't say enough about how important his presence has been."
Zhou also competed in an individual event on Friday afternoon, finishing 28th in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.80.
The Engineers will close out the competition today, hoping to improve upon the 10th-place finish that they achieved in 2005. That result equaled the best team-finish at the NCAA Championships since 1984, while the highest that MIT has ever finished at nationals is seventh, in 1982. However, the task will be a bit harder than previously believed, as the 400-yard free relay team will no longer be competing. As a result, Tech's only remaining competitors are Edwards, in the 200-yard backstroke, and Racz, in the 200-yard breaststroke.