By Matt Bradshaw —
For U of L students, winter break was an opportunity to kick back from the books and spend time relaxing. For Cardinal swimmers, it was a time to travel nearly 7,500 miles across the globe to compete with the best of the best.
Both current and former student-athletes swam at the Short Course World Championships last month in Hangzhou, China. The Cards represented not only the U. S. but also their native countries of El Salvador, Venezuela and Russia.
Sophomore Zach Harting and senior Mallory Comerford swam for the U.S. squad with alumna Kelsi Worrell Dahlia as team captain. Dahlia is well-known for her performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the 4×100 medley relay.
Senior Marcelo Acosta swam for El Salvador while alumni Carlos Claverie and Gregory Tarasevich swam for Venezuela and Russia, respectively.
All told, Team USA topped the Championships with 36 total medals, making for 22 more than any other country. Captain Dahlia finished with a team-best nine medals.
Comerford, appearing in her second straight World Championships, set an American record in the 200 free. Already back-to-back NCAA Champion in the same race, she beat the world record by nearly a full second and collected the silver medal.
Comerford later combined with Dahlia and two other Americans to win the team’s first gold medal of the Championships in the 4×100 free relay.
Harting finished fifth in the 200 fly final, where the top two swimmers broke the previous world record, and notched a personal best time.
Acosta posted 13th overall in the 400 free for El Salvador.
Claverie posted 32nd overall in the 100 breast for Venezuela.
Comerford and Dahlia opened the second day of competition in record fashion, taking gold in the 4×50 medley relay and breaking the previous world record by a second. Both Cardinals’ splits were the fastest among all swimmers in the field.
Not long after, Dahlia topped her own American record in the 200 butterfly for a silver medal finish.
Moving to the 4×50 mixed freestyle relay, Comerford and Dahlia set yet another world record with a winning performance alongside two other Americans.
Acosta continued a strong showing with 29th overall in the 200 free.
Comerford and Dahlia continued to dominate on the third day of swimming. Comerford began with a bronze medal in the 100 free, breaking the American record and entering the top-10 of all-time fastest marks in the event.
Dahlia combined with three other Americans to set a world record in the 4×50 mixed medley relay, earning the team’s fifth relay gold.
Claverie finished 22nd overall in the 200 breast.
Dahlia returned to the podium once again with a bronze medal in the 50 butterfly.
Harting added to the 4×200 free relay for a fourth place finish, his squad about three-tenths of a second from breaking the American record.
On the penultimate day of racing, Comerford won a silver medal in the 4×200 free relay as her team broke the previous American record by more than three seconds.
Americans earned gold medals in abundance on the final day in China, aided by the Louisville standouts.
Dahlia acquired three golds through the 100 fly, 4×50 freestyle relay and 4×100 medley relay. Comerford helped in both relays as the teams set American and meet records.
Tarasevich finished 10th overall in the 200 backstroke.
Last week, U of L swimming and diving welcomed back its international performers and won its first meet of 2019. The No. 8 men’s team and No. 6 women’s team combined for a sweep of the Missouri Tigers.
The Cards return to Ralph Wright Natatorium on Friday, Jan. 25 for a Senior Day swim against Northwestern.
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
Photo Courtesy / Louisville Athletics