Richard Nolan (400 IM) and Michael Ackert (1M Diving) Capture BIG EAST Gold Medals on Friday Night

08 Dec 2021 | 17:41 | Swimming & Diving

GENEVA, Ohio—Freshman sensation Richard Nolan (Wilton, Conn.) won his second BIG EAST title in as many nights with a gold medal performance in the 400 yard individual medley and junior diver Michael Ackert (Rye, N.Y.) also won his second conference title of the week on a busy Friday night at the SPIRE Institute for the Wildcats. Villanova remains in second place in the team standings at the BIG EAST Championships going into the final day of competition on Saturday. The team recorded a total of 11 individual top-eight finishes during Friday’s full day of action.

Nolan won the 200 yard individual medley on Thursday night and then made an even bigger splash later in the night with an energetic interview that streamed live during coverage of the championships and proved to be a hit on social media channels. He brought that same positive energy to the pool on Friday when he had the second-fastest time in the preliminaries of the 400 IM and then surged past Providence swimmer Justin Viotto to touch the wall first in the final. Nolan recorded a winning time of 3:52.21 and beat his previous personal best from high school by more than five seconds. Fellow freshman Nolan Danus (Morris Plains, N.J.) was also a qualifier for the championship final and finished fourth with a personal best time of 3:57.29. Freshman Ethan Brown (West Hartford, Conn.) was 11th with a PR of 4:02.71.

“It’s tough to come in here for one of the longer events that gets you so out of breath,” an equally celebratory Nolan said after his latest championship performance. “Just having my teammates behind me, I tell you it’s something else when you get out of the pool and all these teammates are coming to give you high-fives and give you hugs. It’s truly like any other team I have ever been on. Energy can transfer anywhere at any time and sometimes you have got to be the medium to transfer that energy. That’s what we were trying to do today from the ladies to the men to the divers. Go ‘Nova and go V’s!”

Ackert also won his second gold medal of the week, this time with a winning score of 551.05 points on the one-meter board. Unlike the three-meter competition earlier in the week when Ackert had the leading score after the preliminaries, on Friday he had the second-highest score of 266.90 before overtaking Justin Corres from Connecticut in the final. Corres was the runner-up with a combined score of 541.35 points. Villanova freshman Noah Clipman (Mohnton, Pa.) won his second medal of the week, taking the bronze with a score of 520.05 points.

“I knew it was my last chance to dive for the year,” Ackert said after receiving his gold medal. “Our meets have only been lasting about 10 minutes for the [men’s divers] so I just tried to enjoy it as much as possible, take every moment in, take it dive by dive and do everything that I could do. This is only our third meet of the year, so just being able to come back here and do it is awesome. I’ll keep these gold medals right in my room near my desk where I can see them and enjoy them.”

One of the strong performances for Villanova on Friday night came from senior Francis Prikasky (Pass Christian, Miss.) who was the bronze medalist in the 100 yard breaststroke. He set a new personal best by a margin of nearly 2.5 seconds when he led the field of swimmers in the preliminaries with a time of 55.57 and he nearly matched the new mark by touching the wall third in the final in 55.75. Senior JJ Strain (Greenwood Village, Colo.) qualified for the consolation final in the 100 breast and came in 10th in 57.18.

A big tally of points for the Wildcats came in the 100 yard butterfly where the team had five scorers. Senior Jordan Fetterman (Berkeley, Calif.) and sophomore Kevin Geist (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) each made the championship final and finished consecutively in sixth and seventh places. Fetterman recorded a PR of 49.50 and Geist was just behind him in 49.70. Junior Jesse Marsh (Kingston, Jamaica) tied his personal best from high school and finished ninth overall in 49.64, followed by sophomore Ryan Maher (Phoenixville, Pa.) in 10th place with a personal best of 50.28 and sophomore Stephen Griner (Greenville, S.C.) come in 13th with a PR of 50.91.

In addition to qualifying for the consolation final in the 400 IM, Brown made the championship final of the 100 yard backstroke and came in sixth with a time of 50.29. That is a new personal best for an open race, while he also registered a relay split of 49.88 later in the night leading off the 400 yard medley relay with the backstroke leg of the race. Freshman Charlie Hinckley (New York, N.Y.) finished seventh in the 100 back with a PR of 50.53, Griner came in 15th with a personal best mark of 52.78 and junior Sam Fanatico (Plano, Texas) finished 16th with yet another personal best time (53.69) by a Villanova swimmer. Fanatico beat his previous PR by nearly three full seconds.

Sophomore Reid Hutcherson (Richmond, Va.) finished fourth in the 200 yard freestyle with a PR of 1:39.32, while sophomore Jake McIntyre (Essex, Vt.) was seventh in 1:41.36 and senior Lars Hultgren (Centennial, Colo.) came in 15th (1:44.85).

A lineup of Brown, Prikasky, Fetterman and Hutcherson closed out the night by finishing third in the 400 medley relay with a time of 3:20.61. Hutcherson had a split of 45.39 on the freestyle anchor leg. Villanova currently has 496 team points and trails Xavier (573) for the lead going into the final day of competition.

Competition on Saturday begins with preliminaries at 10 a.m. and the finals session at 6 p.m.. On the event schedule for the final day of the meet are the 1650 yard freestyle, the 200 yard backstroke, the 100 yard freestyle, the 200 yard breaststroke, the 200 yard butterfly, women’s three-meter diving and the 400 yard freestyle relay.

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