Jamaica’s Justin Plaschka will join a number of the CARIFTA region’s best male swimmers who will be competing at the NCAA Division I Championships to be held from March 22-25 at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis. Before Justin competed as freshman on the Notre Dame 200 yard medley relay at the Championships in 2015 the last Jamaican to compete at the highest level in Division I was Olympian Sion Brinn in 1995 for Louisiana State University. In 2016 he emulated Brinn’s feat in qualification for an individual event when he met the standard for the 50 and 100 yard freestyle as well as the 100 yard butterfly. In addition to that he swam Fighting Irish teams in the 200 and 400 yard freestyle relays. For 2017 he will be competing in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle, the 200 and 400 yard medley relays as well as the 200 and 400 yard freestyle relays.
Qualification for the Championships in Indianapolis was possible due to Justin’s good showing at the ACC Championships held in Atlanta Georgia from Feb 27 to March 2.The school record book at Notre Dame now features the name Justin Plaschka prominently in 7 events.
In the 50 yard freestyle Plaschka earned his first medal in the 50 yard freestyle at the Championships when he won Silver in the event. He swam to a PB of 19.54 (split time 9.41) in the heats. In the final he was out even faster in 9.32 to win Silver in another PB of 19.38.In winning the medal he bettered the school record of 19.45 set by teammate Daniel Speers in the morning preliminaries.
When draftingthecaribbean spoke the Notre Dame junior on March 4 he spoke about his achievement
“I went into the final knowing that it was going to be a super close race and I knew that I’d have to have to really try to focus to get my hand on the wall first so in the race I really worked on hitting my underwater properly and not burying my head too much and it worked out pretty well. I was really happy with my time and also how my teammate, Dan Speers did as well because we were both on the bubble for NCAA invite times”
In 2015 Plaschka finished 26th in the race in 20.12 .Last year he was 8th in 19.72.
In the 200 yard freestyle relay the Fighting Irish team of Justin 19.61, Speers 18.86, Tabahn Afrik 19.61 and Reed Fujan 19.29 posted a total time of 1:17.37 to win the Bronze. That bettered the NCAA A standard of 1:17.77 as well as the old school record of 1:18.46 which was set at last year’s championships.
The same quartet would be assembled for the 400 yard freestyle relay. They would again be faster than the NCAA A standard of 2:52.45 as well as the school record from the 2016 ACC Championships of 2:52.18. Plaschka 43.54, Afrik 42.52, Fujan 42.96 and Speers 42.54 had a total effort of 2:51.56 to win the Bronze medal.
The consistency of being under the NCAA A standard of 1:25.05 and the 2014 school record of 1:25.46 was again exhibited in the 200 yard medley relay. The team in this race was Robert Whitacre backstroke 21.87, Trent Jackson breaststroke 23.66, Justin butterfly 20.63 and Speers freestyle 18.72.Their combined effort of 1:24.88 won the Bronze.
The 100 yard freestyle saw Justin breaking 43 seconds for the first and setting a school record. He accomplished the feat by winning the B final in a time of 42.87 (split time 20.11). The previous record of 42.96 was set by teammate Afrik in the morning heats. He gave his thoughts about the event
“In the 100 freestyle I was pretty disappointed with my morning swim and had really wanted to make it into the a-final so I was really determined to go faster at night. Also going into the final session we were in a super tight team race for third place so I knew that any points mattered. I really just layed everything on the line and went out as hard as I could and tried to hold on and it was a super painful race but it went pretty well. I was happy with my time but more happy that I was able to win the heat for my team”.
The 100 yard butterfly saw Justin just missing out being the first swimmer from Notre Dame to clock a sub 46 second time. He swam to 46.05 (split time 21.40) .The old school record was 46.37.In the Championship final he 4th in 46.19 (split time 21.35). He gave his insight on the race
“The 100 fly actually surprised me with how well I did in the morning session. I am usually a much better performer in the night session so I was very happy with how I swam in the morning and to go a best time. In finals my coach just wanted me to take it out hard and I tried to which is what hurt me a little on the back half but I’m still very happy with how I swam”.
The 400 yard medley relay team of Whitacre backstroke 46.56, Jackson breaststroke 52.03, Justin butterfly 46.36 and Speers freestyle 43.04 sped to a new school record of 3:07.99 to place 4th overall.Notre Dame had their highest position ever of 3rd at the ACC’s with 923.5 points.
Plaschka told of training leading up to ACC’s and the reasons behind the faster collegiate times this year
“Training up to ACC’s was great. This year we have a great sprint group and everyone was training hard and competing and everyone was swimming well in practice so the mood was very upbeat. This year is the first under our new head coach (Mike Litzinger) and the atmosphere on deck has been totally different from the years in the past. Everyone has really been working hard and working as a team and striving to be better and I think the fact that everyone has been doing so well together and working so hard for each other has really made the team improve how it has this year. We wanted to go into conference and surprise people and I think we did that.
He also spoke about the impact of representing Jamaica and plans for the summer
“I think it has definitely helped me out in certain ways. It gave me experience and confidence competing at such high level meets and under the spotlights and it is definitely helpful at meets where there is a lot of pressure on you. I think that I am hoping to compete at the world championships this summer. Hopefully that will be my Big meet for the summer”
Justin, who is the fastest swimmer Jamaica, has ever produced in the yards as 19.38, short course metres 22.51 and long course metres 22.77 will be first be in action in the heats of the 50 yard freestyle on Thursday March 23.