March 24, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) Defending champion Texas rolled to four more victories Thursday to increase its lead in the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships to 46 points over Florida.

Freshman Townley Haas won the 500 freestyle, junior Will Licon took the 200 individual medley, and the Longhorns won the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relays, with John Shebat, Licon, Joseph Schooling and Jack Conger teaming to break the NCAA record in the 400 medley at 3 minutes, 0.68 seconds.

Texas had 209 points, followed by Florida with 163, California at 141, North Carolina State at 137 and Michigan at 90. The Longhorns followed their Wednesday night win in the 800 freestyle relay with victories in the first three finals Thursday.

''I really feel like we're riding a wave; I'm not sure if that's ever been done,'' said senior John Murray, who anchored Texas's 200 free relay team to begin the evening. ''To come out with four wins right off the bat, we have great momentum going into (Friday).''

On Wednesday, the Longhorns began pursuit of their 12th national title - which would tie Michigan for the record - by winning the 800 freestyle relay in an NCAA-record 6:08.03.

Haas was the hero in that one after swimming an NCAA-record split of 1:30.52 in the second leg, and he played a similar role Thursday - unexpectedly - when Texas built its sizable lead despite unexpected adversity.

Junior Longhorn Clark Smith, the 2015 NCAA champion in the 500 free, failed to make it out of preliminaries Thursday after struggling to 4:17.17. He had entered the meet as the No. 1 seed with a top time of 4:08.82.

So, in the 500 final, Haas held off Florida junior Mitch D'Arrigo to win 4:09.00-4:09.98. Haas hit the first wall in the final with a 22.59-23.29 lead, and never trailed.

''My plan usually is to get out first and stay there as long as possible,'' said Haas, from Richmond, Virginia. ''I guess I just held the confidence that I could keep him from passing me. We all kind of know Clark and sometimes that happens to him. I guess I thought about it, but I tried not to let it affect me. I'm sure he'll have a better swim for the mile.''

Non-Texas winners were Florida's Caeleb Dressel with an NCAA record 18.20 seconds in the 50 free and Tennessee's Laim Stone in one-meter diving (453.70).

Even in those events, the Longhorns scored well. They landed 20 points after Murray and Brett Ringgold finished sixth and 10th in the 50 free, and Mark Anderson and Cory Bowersox finished sixth and ninth for 22 points in diving.

Texas's closing win in the 400 medley relay took serious work after Cal junior Ryan Murphy opened with an NCAA-record split of 43.51 in the backstroke to give the Bears a 1.85-second lead.

Conger trailed Cal anchor Long Gutierrez by 0.14 in the water, but rallied the Longhorns (3:00.68) past the Bears (3:01.28) with his 100 yards of freestyle (41.29).

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