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Margalis Named SEC Swimmer Of The Year; DeScenza earns Freshman of the Year honors  -- May 9, 2003 Robert Margalis, Georgia, won the 400 IM in an upset, clocking the second fastest time in history, 3:39.92

ATHENS, Ga, May 9. GEORGIA swimmers Robert Margalis and Mary DeScenza paced the 2003 Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Awards announced by the league office Monday.

Margalis was named the Male Swimmer of the Year, while DeScenza garnered SEC Freshman of the Year accolades on the women's side.

The awards are voted on by the league's coaches at their annual SEC meeting in the spring. Margalis is the first Georgia male to earn swimmer of the year distinction by the SEC, and he is the first Bulldog to be honored by the conference since Jud Campbell was named Diver of the Year in 2001. DeScenza is the second Lady Bulldogs to be tabbed SEC Freshman of the Year award after Maritza Correia claimed the inaugural honor in 2000.

Margalis became Georgia's first NCAA champion since Kris Babylon won the 200-yard individual medley in 1997, as the Bulldog sophomore touched the wall in a personal-best 3:39.92 to win the 400-yard individual medley at the 2003 NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas. The mark, second-fastest all-time, also lowered the Georgia record, the 3:41.42 that Margalis established at last year's NCAAs. Margalis, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., was runner-up in the 500-yard free.

"We are very excited for Robert. This is quite a prestigious award in this conference and one that is hard earned," said Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle. "It is always great to see the program's hardest worker rewarded for his efforts. He is a terrific individual swimmer, but he has a tremendous impact on the 800 free relay, and down the road he will be a force on our 4x100 (relay)."

At the SEC Championships in Auburn, Margalis won the 500-yard freestyle and finished third in both the 1,650-yard freestyle and the 400-yard individual medley.

"He has done a tremendous job since he has been here," added Bauerle. "(Assistant coach) Harvey (Humphries) has done a tremendous job with him on a day-to-day basis. We are proud of Robert and proud for our program."

DeScenza capped a brilliant rookie campaign by breaking the school record and winning her first NCAA individual title with a time of 1:53.51 in the 200-yard butterfly -‹ Georgia's first national champion in the event. DeScenza finished second in the 100-yard butterfly and eighth in the 200 yard individual medley at this year's national championships. DeScenza finished sixth in the high point standings with 48 total points, making her the top scoring freshman at the NCAAs.

"This is a well deserved award," offered Bauerle. "She has had a tremendous year. She has impacted our team not only in her individual events but also in relays. Like Robert, we can use her in a lot of events at a high level. She has made an impact in the SEC, but she may have been the best freshman in the country."

In her first conference championship meet, the Illinois native stood atop the medal stand twice by winning both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events. DeScenza became the first 200-yard butterfly champion all-time at Georgia since the SEC Championships were first contested in 1981. DeScenza became the fifth Lady Bulldog to win multiple events in her first SEC Championship, joining Correia (2000), Keegan Walkley (1998), Kristy Kowal and Courtney Shealy (1997).

"She knows how to have fun with her sport, and she has been great for our team," said Bauerle.

Although the collegiate season is complete, both Margalis and DeScenza will be in action this summer as they represent the United States in international competition. Margalis will don the red, white and blue at the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, Korea, while DeScenza will be a part of the women¹s national team, along with U.S. women¹s head coach Bauerle, at the 2003 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
Mary DeScenza