Hawkeyes earn all-Americans, top finish in 17 years

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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Earning an All-American title is tough in any sport.

Most college athletes go through four years without ever being graced with the honor; most teams lack even just one competitor that has earned the status.

But Iowa's Paul Gordon and Ryan Phelan earned All-American status at the 2011 NCAA swimming and diving championships, and they counted the experience as a highlight to garnish their accomplished careers.

Little did they know, though, that they would repeat as All-Americans. Not just once or twice, either; the seniors and their teammates had three performances at the 2012 championships that helped solidify Iowa as a school with a serious commitment to its swimming program.

Gordon, Phelan, Duncan Partridge, and Jordan Huff placed 15th in the 400-free relay in 2011 to get the first All-American mention.

The same four traveled with teammate Gianni Sesto to Federal Way, Wash., on March. 22-24 to try to improve on the 4 points Iowa scored in 2011.

The quintet scored 20 points in three events, placing 26th out of 39 teams at the event. The finish is the highest since 1995, when Iowa placed 13th in the country.

The squad scored points and earned all-American status in the 800-, 400-, and 200-freestyle relays.
Phelan, Partridge, Gordon, and Sesto scored 4 points on the opening night by placing 15th overall in the 200-free relay, with a time of 1:18.96 minutes.

Huff, Gordon, Sesto, and Phelan then dove in to score the rest of the points in the meet's final days. They placed 15th in the 800 free in 6:29.33 minutes and added 4 more points to the board. The same four finished 11th in the 400-free relay to score 12 points and earn the third All-American honor of the weekend.

Head Iowa swimming coach Marc Long couldn't say enough about the pride he felt for his swimmers and their performances against what he thinks is the premier swimming competition in the world.

"They were able to compete with the best; this is the fastest meet in the world," Long said.

"Competing and beating some of the best — I think it means a lot to them — that just shows what kind of athletes they are. Being Big Ten champs and All-Americans is a big deal as they look back."

Long's claim that the NCAA championships are faster and more competitive than even the Olympics might seem lofty, but he's not the only one with that belief. Gordon said he supports his coach's statement, and justified the argument.

"I really think it's the premier short-course event in the world," Gordon said. "In most countries, the qualifying time for the Olympics [in a 100 freestyle] … would be 43.5 seconds. Qualifying for NCAAs [in the 100 free], the time is 43.0 — a half-second faster."

Sesto was the only one who came into the 2012 meet without prior experience at the big swim, but said his teammates gave him further confidence in his own swimming during the competition.

"If you asked me the beginning of the season if I was going to be an All-American, I would give you a questioning look," the Las Vegas native said. "… During the first relay, when we were behind the blocks, I was pretty nervous. They said 'You deserve to be here, you're a top swimmer in the country now.'

"It's quite the honor to go over there and represent the team with it highest placing since 1995. With the way the team is rebuilding right now, I'm looking forward to the future."

Follow DI men's swimming reporter Ben Ross on Twitter.

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