‘Amazing’ Arizona state celebrates growth and finishes second in the NCAAs
Texas, California. California, Texas. Since 2010, only one team — Michigan, with its 2013 title — had broken that superpower block in the top two places at the NCAA men’s swimming and diving championships.
So for all the countless achievements of Leon Marchand and corporations, what the State of Arizona has achieved together should not be overstated. It’s not just about the Frenchman and his backing singers either.
The Sun Devils finished the 2023 NCAA Men’s Championships with 430 points. That was behind California’s 482, but it surpassed Texas’ 384 and Indiana’s 379.
Impressive as that sounds, it’s worth underscoring: Texas and California have both finished first or second in one of the last 12 NCAA championships. In other words, since 2010, the NCAAs have awarded 26 Top 2 trophies. Texas and Cal own 24 of them.
Now Arizona State has one. A school that placed 24th at the 2010 meeting was advancing from 31st place the previous season. A team that finished 44th with two points at the NCAAs in 2016, alongside Cornell, Harvard and Penn State. (In case you’re wondering, Penn, Yale, and Princeton topped them, so Arizona State was the bottom half of the Ancient Eight.)
And now they’re a spot below Cal on the national stage.
“This is crazy,” Marchand said. “Last year we were sixth and we knew we could do better next year. And then we did it. Of course, like everyone else, we wanted to win. But when you see that you’re pretty close to Cal, who has won the NCAAs multiple times, it’s just amazing to do that with ASU. I’m just looking forward to the future.”
It’s crazy and it’s just the beginning. Arizona State is more than Marchand, as its NCAA records in the 200m, 400m and 200m breaststroke are the standout individual performances of the competition. The Sun Devils finished runners-up in both seasons on opening night, winning three bronze medals and a fifth.
It speaks to a culture that uplifts everyone, not just a superstar.
“I think the crazy thing about ASU is that we build everything,” Marchand said. “There is no tradition, there is no culture in that past. So these guys like Cody Bybee And grant house, They came in and built it about five years ago and we keep improving it every year. The team spirit is great now and I think it gets better every year.”
“It just means our plan was good,” said coach Bob Bowman. “We’re still working on it. We are far from where we want to be. But it’s really a testament to these guys and how hard they worked and how they were able to build a culture that would allow us to compete at this level.”
Perhaps most telling when it comes to youth: Cal didn’t have a freshman score in competition, her lone rookie points came in diving. All in all there were 13 A-final swims by newcomers at the meet. Five of them came from Sun Devils – two from Hungarian Olympian Hubert Kos, two of Owen McDonald and one of Zalan Sarkany.
Swimmers like House and Bybee, among others, have set the submission, and the talent has helped reach new heights. Young swimmers need to play a bigger role in guiding the program next year. But the future is bright.
“I’m super happy with these newcomers,” said Bowman. “They all have a lot of skills and they’re just figuring out how to do it. So I am very excited to see what we will be doing this summer and next year and beyond.”