By John Lohn
ASTON, Pennsylvania, December 7. ONLY three weeks remain before the calendar flips over and we start documenting the highlight achievements of 2006. So, let’s continue to take a look at some of the prime moments of this year with the second installment of a series that will run through the end of the month.
Best Team Accomplishment: As the University of Georgia women rolled to the NCAA Championship in March, the Bulldogs accomplished a feat of mind-boggling proportions: They swept the relay events, something never before achieved by a male or female program. By winning all five relays, Georgia secured a 117.5-point victory over Auburn in the team standings.
The most impressive swim by the Bulldogs arrived in the 800-yard freestyle relay, where they clocked in at 7:01.03, good for an American record. The unit consisted of Mary DeScenza, Kara Lynn Joyce, Elizabeth Hill and Amanda Weir. On an individual level, Joyce (50/100 free) and DeScenza (100/200 butterfly) each won a pair of events.
Top Individual Relay Swim Although the United States rallied for victory in the 800-meter freestyle at the World Championships in Montreal, the Australians kicked off the event in grand fashion, thanks to the talents of Lisbeth Lenton. Handling the leadoff leg, Lenton blazed a mark of 1:57.06, the fourth-fastest time in history. The swim was 1.54 seconds faster than the time France’s Solenne Figues posted en route to gold in the 200 free championship heat.
Biggest Absences: Considering their countless career accomplishments, something was missing in 2005 with the absence of Australia’s Ian Thorpe and the United States’ Amanda Beard from international competition. While Thorpe was refueling his tank following the Athens Olympics, Beard was dedicating her time to numerous endorsement opportunities.
Had Thorpe raced, the World Champs in Montreal could have been elevated, especially with the high level at which Grant Hackett was swimming. As for Beard, her presence could have bolstered the World Champs final in the 200 breast, which was won by Australia’s Leisel Jones in world-record time. Beard held the previous standard.