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Not even two seconds.

That's how much – or how little – difference the Iowa men's swimming team failed to advance by in the 400 medley relay Thursday at the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Iowa City.

The top 16 teams out of 24 advanced from the afternoon preliminary session to the finals Thursday night. Iowa posted a time of 3:10.03 for 19th place. Virginia Tech, the 16th-best team, finished in 3:08.81. California was first with a time of 3:04.69.

"Two of the legs were faster than Big Tens, middle legs weren't as fast," Iowa coach Marc Long said. "It's not how we wanted to start, but we just have to work on that front-end speed.

"We have other shots coming up. Again, not how we wanted to start, but there were some bright spots I think for down the road."

Iowa's 400 medley team swam their best of the season at the Big Ten Championships, also at the CRWC, in February with a time of 3:08.56.

Both Iowa relay groups – the Hawkeyes also qualified in the 200 medley relay, which is Friday – are made up of Grant Betulius, Roman Trussov, Jerzy Twarowski, and Jackson Halsmer.

Betulius, a senior, was reflective after the swim.

"It was disappointing," Betulius said. "It's pretty tough knowing that the time we had at Big Tens would have made it back. I think we can bounce back from it. We need to put it behind us and move on. We have two more days left of the meet. We just have to learn from it."

Despite the abundance of talent at the CRWC this week, Iowa held a home-field edge.

But the Hawkeyes could not take advantage. At least not on Thursday.

"This is the world's fastest meet in some ways," Long said. "You have to come here and be prepared. I felt like we were prepared, we did some good things. It's possible the nerves got to them being at home. I think we experienced that a little at Big Tens, and we're learning with that. But I know there's still some great swims in them still. It's a long meet. It wasn't a complete disaster."

The 200 medley relay is still a chance for Iowa to prove its swimming prowess at home, as are individual events from Betulius and Trussov.

Betulius qualified in the 100 and 200 backstroke, while Trussov is in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

Over 50 schools are represented in multiple events during each of the three days of competition.

"We need to sharpen some things up and swim fast (Friday)," Betulius said.

Reach Matt Cozzi at mcozzi@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi

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