By Noah Allison
The University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium played host to the American
Athletic Conference swim and dive championship. U of L’s men and women combined to
win eight races and both relays. It was the last time swimming at home for many Cardinals.
“Hats off to the administration here, they did a fantastic job at creating a championship
environment under what I consider fairly difficult circumstances. We never looked at it as
transition. This was our Superbowl right here and we came to play today. It was a great way
to end the meet,” Head Coach Arthur Albiero said.
Albiero was named AAC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year. Albiero has had the U of L
swim program, like many athletic programs here, on the rise.
“The men broke top 10 and got up to nine but we want to be better than that. The
women have been ranked 22 three years in a row and we are sick of that, we want to be
better,” Albiero said. “This group understands that, these are special competitors and a great
group of kids. On behalf of my staff its been an honor, they’ve given a lot to this program
and today the seniors were fantastic and they carried the way from the beginning to the end.
I’m very proud of this group.”
Junior Tanja Kyllianinen was named Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmer and senior
Joao De Lucca was named Men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer. Both Kyllianinen and De
Lucca set school records and made the nationals cut with their performances on Saturday.
De Lucca is defending national champion in the 100-free and will be returning to defend
“He surprised me, I did not expect him to swim as fast as he did. Our focus has been the
NCAA’s and we really didn’t break training coming in to today. He really surprised me and I
think it shows how competitive he is what a team player he is. He knew this was important
to the team and he swam his heart out,” Albiero said.
De Lucca is one of many seniors to swim his last race in Ralph Wright. Lucca has
undoubtedly proven to be a pillar Cardinal in the swim program.
“It passed by quick, I’m proud of what I’ve done these four years and to have this last meet
at home is an amazing thing,” De Lucca said.
“Right now I’m very confident about my swimming, I wasn’t rested and was still able to
put up those fast times. I feel like when I’m rested I can go a lot faster.”
On Saturday the Cardinals set five school records and seven pool records. Four Cardinals
made the NCAA A-cut, as a first team swimmer and seven NCAA B-cuts as a back-up
swimmer. The Cardinals are back to work, as the NCAA Championships are just a month
away at the end of March.
“We have some pretty big goals that we’ve had for quite some time, we are well on our
way to the national scene,” Albiero said. “We want to do something special and reach new
levels that the program never has before.”