TAIPEI, Taiwan – NC State men’s & women’s swimming & diving head coach Braden Holloway could not have asked for a better start to the World University Games for the Wolfpack representatives, as Ryan Held and Justin Ress earned gold medals in the 400-meter freestyle relay for the USA, while Alexia Zevnik also captured gold in the 400 freestyle relay for Canada on Sunday morning.
Held and Ress teamed with Maxime Rooney and Justin Lynch as part of the 400 freestyle relay team, and their time of 3:14.01 seconds earned them gold in the final. While Rooney had them fifth on the lead-off, Held’s time of 48.25 follow by Ress’ time of 48.07 gave the USA a lead of over a second-and-a-half prior to Lynch finishing things off to earn gold.
NC State’s third gold medal came courtesy of Zevnik, who showed tremendous grit as she backed up from the semifinals of the 200 backstroke to anchor the Canadians. Teaming with Katerine Savard, Jacqueline Keire and Sarah Fournier, the race came down to Canada and the Russians, with the Russians taking the lead during the third leg. Zevnik then closed out the race in a time of 54.10, taking back the lead for the Canadians securing gold.
Despite the tremendous success achieved by the Wolfpack swimmers in the relays, they were not the only bright spots on the day.
Ress showed why he is quickly becoming one of the rising stars of world swimming, finishing the 100 backstroke semifinal in 53.54, earning the top seed for tomorrow’s final. He was only 0.07 short of his personal best time, and shaved 0.07 off his preliminary time from earlier in the day.
Ress was not alone in qualifying for a final, as Zevnik and Mackenzie Glover both earned spots in the 200 backstroke final. Glover’s time of 2:10.50 seconds in the semifinal has her seeded fourth, while Zevnik completed the race in 2:10.62 seconds, seeing her seeded fifth.
Holloway, also a member of the USA coaching staff in Taipei, was extremely pleased with how the day panned out.
“Proud of the Wolfpack in Taipei today” he said. “Coming away with gold medals is always an achievement, and even sweeter when in a relay representing your country. Justin Ress had a huge day, splitting well minutes after a great 100 backstroke performance was tough and gritty. Ryan got his meet off to a good start in the relay. He overworked the first 35 meters, so he can make a few adjustments before his next race. Alexia and Mackenzie were great for Canada in the 200 backstroke, and then Alexia then turned right around to anchor Canada for gold in the 400 freestyle relay. For NC State, she was always our leadoff leg, so it was great to see her finish strong.
On Aug. 21, Ress will look to capture gold in the 100 backstroke final, while Zevnik and Glover will look to do the same in the 200 backstroke final. Zevnik will also compete in the heat of the 100 freestyle, and look to earn her way into the semifinal later in the day.