– Two Missouri State swimmers' seasons continue as freshman Antonio Thomas
and sophomore Artur Osvath
qualified to compete at the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, announced by the NCAA Wednesday, Mar. 8.
The first freshman in program history to qualify, Osvath returns to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year and will compete in the 100 and 200-yard breast, as well as the 200 individual medley. Joining Osvath is the second freshman in school history to qualify – Antonio Thomas
. The newcomer is the 10th
Missouri State swimmer to make the NCAA Championships and is set to swim in the 500 and 1650 free at IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind.
"Just getting an invite to the NCAA Championships is a very, very difficult thing to do," head coach Dave Collins
said. "There are a lot of really good collegiate swimmers that never get to the NCAA Championships, so for Artur to have had that experience as a freshman last year and be the first freshman in our program's history to make it was a special thing.
"Now that he has had that experience, our next goal is to get there and get a second swim – meaning become an All-American. We've only had one All-American in the history of the program, so that's our next goal."
Swimming three separate events, Osvath will compete over the course of three days. He will begin with the 200 IM on Thrusday, Mar. 23, followed by the 100 breast on Friday, Mar. 24. The veteran will then wrap up the championships with his main event – the 200 breast – on Saturday, Mar. 25. On the national stage, he sits 59th
in the 200 IM, 42nd
in the 100 breast and is the 25th
seed in the 200 breast.
"I am very excited and I think that having this same experience last year is really going to help my performance this time around," Osvath said. "Now I know what to expect and I know what kind of swimmers I am going up against. There are Olympians and swimmers who have beaten Michael Phelps, so I am really excited to go race with these guys and show what I can do."
Throughout the 2016-17 season, Osvath picked up "B" cuts in five events – the 100 and 200 breast, 100 and 200 butterfly, as well as the 200 IM. Along with his nationally recognized times, the Budapest, Hungary native set three school records in the 100 and 200 breast, along with the 100 fly.
At the 2016 NCAA Championships, the then-freshman finished 35th
in the 200 IM, 34th
in the 100 breast and 17th
in the 200 breast. Osvath broke two personal records in the 200 IM and 100 breast at the national meet.
"My main goal is to make it in the top 16 and score," Osvath added. "Our goal this year is to go and get in the top eight, so I'm hoping that I'm going to be able to accomplish either one of those goals. Last year I was upset after I finished 17th
, but it motivated me to work hard throughout the entire year."
Bear in school history to qualify for the national meet, Thomas is one of six freshman who will compete in the mile. A week ago, Thomas earned two Mid-American Conference titles in the 500 and 1650 free and was named the MAC Freshman Swimmer of the Year.
"Antonio, as a freshman, does not swim and compete like a freshman," Collins explained. "He competes like an upperclassman so it's a great accomplishment to be selected to this meet. When we're there, we always have the goal to try and score, but I think that this is going to be a really good experience for him. To be at the most elite meet that's offered to college athletes and to have that experience will be very beneficial to him moving forward.
"He's very young and has a lot of really good swimming ahead of him and he's going have a lot of opportunities. Any time you can get these types of experiences, it's a really good thing."
The first Missouri State distance swimmer to qualify for the NCAA Championships, Thomas will compete on two separate days of the meet, beginning with the 500 free on Thursday, Mar. 23. He will then close out the championships in his main event – the 1650 free.
"For me, my whole philosophy on big meets is not to psych myself out," Thomas said. "I did what I wanted to accomplish at the MAC Championships. I wanted to go under 15 minutes in the mile. For me, beating the person next to me is the ultimate goal because I don't want to be last."
Entering the 1650 free as the 27th
seed, Thomas is one of six freshman to compete in the mile-long swim. The newcomer from Fayetteville, Ark., set three school records during his freshman campaign and saw vast improvement throughout the season, shedding over 30 seconds off his top time from in the mile from high school.
"I feel like I had a good base coming in, but working with Dave this year has really helped me improve," Thomas explained. "We've worked on turns, underwaters, as well as shaving tenths of seconds off 50 yards and it's all coming together really nicely."
The duo are the only swimmers from the MAC to make an appearance at this year's national meet, extending Missouri State's NCAA Championship participation to its fifth consecutive year. Similarly, Osvath and Thomas earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors in their respective freshman campaigns before heading off to NCAAs.
"I think it's really going to help having a teammate there," Collins said. "Last year it was just the coaches and Artur by himself, so for these two to be able to have a teammate to share a room with, to warm up with and just be at the meet with is going to be really positive for both of them."
Missouri State now has 10 Bears who have made NCAA Championship appearances throughout its history at the NCAA Division I level. Thomas joins Don Fearon (1984), Mike Ablard (1985), Eric Christensen (1990), Jon Wergzyn (2002), Matt Beasley (2005), Paul Le (2013-15), Uvis Kalnins
(2014-15), Garrett Nevels (2015) and Osvath (2016-17).
The championships will be held March 22-25 at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the Indiana Sports Corp. will serve as co-hosts.
A total of 270 participants (235 swimmers and 35 divers) will compete in the championships. Swimmers qualified for the championships by meeting the established minimum time for the events in which they entered. Divers will be determined by performances achieved at the Zone Diving meets March 6-11. The complete lists of all swimmers competing in the championships is available at www.usaswimming.org/ncaa. Selected divers will be added to the website Sunday, March 12.
ESPN3.com will live stream finals sessions on Friday and Saturday. Wednesday's evening session, Thursday's sessions along with the morning sessions on Friday and Saturday will be streamed live on www.ncaa.com and www.indianasportscorp.org/ncaasd. Additionally, ESPNU will air a two-hour show at 5 p.m. Eastern time, Wednesday, April 5.
For more information about the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, visit NCAA.com/sports/swimming-men.