On paper, Johns Hopkins coach George Kennedy had his team pegged to finish eighth or ninth at last weekend's NCAA Division III Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta. It would have been an unusually low placement for the Blue Jays, but it seemed realistic.
That is, until they ripped the paper, and much of the competition, to shreds.
Registering what Kennedy said was "best time after best time," Hopkins came in fourth, just two points behind Union (N.Y.) College. Kenyon (Ohio) College won the title for the 17th straight time.
The Blue Jays were fourth in 1993, third two years ago and fifth last season. But those teams were supposed to do well.
"This is probably our best meet since I've been here," said Kennedy, in his 11th season at Hopkins. "The guys just all swam great. Union scored 37 diving points and we didn't score any, so we really out-swam them.
"You very rarely get a meet like we had. The eight people we had are really close and they made a decision that whatever was going to take place was going to be good."
Hopkins sophomore Matt Johnson was sensational, defending his national title in the 100-yard butterfly by twice shattering the NCAA record time of 49.02. He came in at 48.70 in Friday morning's preliminary heat, then posted a 48.67 later that night. He set another school record in the 200 butterfly, placing third at 1: 52.03, and also earned All-American honors in five other events, including the 50 freestyle (fourth at 20.76) and four relays.
The 200 and 400 medley relay teams established school records with times of 1: 33.91 (fourth place) and 3: 24.88 (third), respectively. And junior Peter Schauer set a Hopkins mark with his time of 4: 05.62 (sixth) in the 400 individual medley.
In addition, Devin Balkcom was seventh in the 200 freestyle, Phil Curran took eighth in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and Brian Murphy placed fourth in the 200 breaststroke -- shaving five seconds off his previous best time -- and eighth in the 100 breaststroke.
For a team that had lost its two best distance swimmers during the fall -- one quit and the other was injured -- what transpired was most satisfying.
"The guys just pulled it together," Kennedy said. "We had some obstacles to overcome. The guys just sucked it up and said, 'Hey, this is the group we have, this is who we're going with.' And they did a super job. It was a phenomenal meet for us."
"We swam out of our minds," said Johnson, who had the fastest split times in the history of the nationals in the 200 and 400 medley relays. "I wanted to come out in the morning and make a statement. I broke the record, and that was a pretty loud statement."
Pub Date: 3/30/96