Contact: Jeff Sattora
Austin, Texas- When a meet is comprised of Olympic swimming household names from Ryan Lochte to Missy Franklin there can be large amount of pressure to perform well and step up competing against the best swimmers in the world.
The Cleveland State Vikings stepped up to that challenge Thursday, with history making performances on Day one of the AT@T Winter National Championships.
While multiple CSU swimmers performed well, it was a relay group for the Vikings that truly stole the show. For the first time in school history a CSU relay was able to qualify in the top eight for the championship heat of a National Championships meet.
That relay group, the men's 4x50 relay consisting of Justin Hill, Berry Thompson, Alex Lewis, and Al Shillito, took home the eighth place finish in the preliminaries with a time of 1:22.00 to move on to the finals.
"I'm really excited about our relay," said Head Coach Wally Morton. "That's the first time in our school's history that we've had a relay in the National Championships in the finals."
"It's incredibly exciting to make our presence felt on the national level," Morton added. "This is good for Cleveland State University, we have one of the top Mid Major programs in the country in sprinting and it's very evident when we come to a meet of this stature."
In that final the group improved both their time and place, moving up to seventh overall with a time of 1:21.60.
Individually CSU also had multiple swimmers perform well also, despite not advancing to the finals in the Championships.
On the men's side Justin Kermack swam his best time of the year (1:52.61) in the 200 IM placing 56th, with CSU also having three swimmers in the 50 freestyle. Those three swimmers were Justin Hill, who led the way finishing 40th in a time of 20.61, Berry Thompson, who finished right behind him in 41st at 20.63, and Alex Lewis who was not far back in 47th at 20.89.
On the women's side the Vikings only had one performance on day one of the meet, with Alexandra Johansson taking home a 46th place finish in the 50 free in a time of 23.43.
For the Vikings' program, no matter the result there is a level of excitement in the air.
"We're extremely excited to be at this prestigious meet with Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin and many other Olympic medalists, it's exciting to see swimming at its highest level," Morton said. "Our team competed very well today."
Looking ahead to day two of the invite, CSU will have several swimmers competing on both the men's and women's side.
For the men Justin Kermack will be in the 400 IM, Alex Lewis,Berry Thompson and Al Shillito will be in the 100 butterfly, Nathan Grant and Brian Ferro are in 100 breaststroke, and Al Shillito is in the 100 backstroke.
On the women's side both Alex Johnasson and Alice Sommerville will be in the 100 butterfly, with Sommerville also swimming in the 100 breaststroke and Johansson also in the 100 backstroke.