Cristian Quintero will lead Trojans at NCAA swimming championships

Cristian Quintero will lead Trojans at NCAA swimming championships
USC's Cristian Quintero, celebrating a win in the men's 500-yard freestyle at last year's NCAA swimming championships, will compete in three individual and three relay events this year. (Michael Thomas / Associated Press)

Cristian Quintero is going to be busy the next three days.

The USC senior could swim as many as 14 races at the NCAA championships in Iowa City, Iowa, where the Trojans will try to win their first national title since 1977.

The championships begin Thursday.

"He's going to be the cornerstone for us," USC Coach Dave Salo said.

Quintero, an applied math major who came to USC from Venezuela, will try to repeat the feat he accomplished at the Pac-12 Conference championships this month.

The 6-foot-5 Quintero, the defending NCAA champion in the 500-yard freestyle, won the 500-, 200- and 100-yard freestyle races to lead USC to its first men's title since 1979. Quintero became the first man in Pac-12 history to pull off the triple in the championship meet. He also anchored the winning 400-yard free and medley relays and the 800-yard free relay.

Quintero, 22, will compete in the 100, 200 and 500 and three relays at the NCAA championships.

Last year, he won the 500, was a part of the winning 800-yard relay, and finished second in the 200 and third in the 100.

"The 100, for sure, is going to be the hardest to win," he said.

Quintero said the Trojans -- who have 13 swimmers competing at the championships -- are primed to make a run at the title.

"We're going to keep building and building," he said.

Quintero competed in the 2012 Olympics for Venezuela, finishing 16th in the 400-meter freestyle, 22nd in the 200-meter free and 15th in the 400-meter free relay.

This summer he will compete in the Pan Am Games in Toronto and the world championships in Kazan, Russia, with an eye toward the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

He will return to USC in the fall to finish his degree.

"I feel very confident and really strong," he said. "I'm really excited for my last college meet."