By Phillip Whitten
AUSTIN, March 28. WAS yesterday a “fluke,” a “lucky day” for Auburn or the Tigers’ best day? Today’s prelims would tell the story.
If the Tigers could hold their own in prelims, they’d have the inside track on winning the NCAA crown. If, however, Stanford or Texas could out-qualify Auburn, the stage would be set for a monster team battle this evening and tomorrow. Today’s prelims could be decisive.
The answer to these questions was heard loud and clear, as the Tigers did all they needed to do. And more. Much more.
As the morning session ended and swimmers and fans filed out the Lee and Joe Jamail Aquatic Center at the University of Texas, Auburn had taken on the demeanor of the proverbial 500-pound gorilla sitting in your living room.
Auburn managed to place eleven swimmers in tonight’s A finals and four in B finals. Texas managed five (including two top qualifiers) and two; Stanford four and seven; and Cal four and three. Only three Auburn swimmers who competed this morning will not be swimming this evening – and two of them are alternates.
The Tigers placed four men in the 100 yard breaststroke final and three in the 400 IM – not too shabby for a “sprint program.” Their worst event was the 200 free, where only one swimmer made the A final and two the B final.
Folks, this has turned into a rout – a runaway Auburn victory in a championship meet in which Stanford was the overwhelming favorite. The Stanford swimmers appear to be almost in shock, after starting the meet brimming with confidence. Texas still has the fighting spirit, but there’s a tacit admission that the Horns’ are now shooting for second place. Cal is swimming extremely well, and coaches Nort Thornton and Mike Bottom are all smiles.
Here’s this morning’s damage report.
All of the top teams qualified for the A final, with Cal first in 1:26.13. Texas is third, Stanford fourth and Auburn fifth. Minnesota qualified second.
Minnesota’s Todd Smolinski had the fastest backstroke leadoff split (21.66). Texas’ Brendan Hansen swam the only sub-24 second breaststroke split (23.87). The Horns’ Ian Crocker had the fastest fly split (20.44), while Auburn’s Derek Gibb’s 18.97 was the swiftest freestyle split.
400 yard individual medley
USC’s Erik Vendt, the defending champion and pre-meet favorite swam a very fast first 300, then used the freestyle leg as a warm-down and still qualified first in 3:43.88. He will definitely be going after Tom Dolan’s “invincible” American/NCAA record of 3:38.18 from 1995.
Swimming next to Vendt tonight will be last year’s runner-up and last night’s runner-up in the 500 free, Robert Margalis of Georgia, who clocked 3:44.09. USC’s Ous Mellouli, third last night in the 500 free, was third this morning in 3:45.57.
Auburn has Eric Shanteau (fifth), James Galloway (sixth) and Jeremy Knowles (seventh) in the A final. Stanford, Texas and cal were shut out. It took 3:47.51 to make the A final, 3:50.03 to make the B.
100 yard butterfly
Texas, Cal and Auburn all put two swimmers in tonight’s A final, while Stanford has one. Ian Crocker, the American/NCAA record-holder at 45.44, qualified first in a very fast 45.76 (21.12 at the 50). Cal’s Mike Cavic and Duje Draganja took the next two spots at 46.39 and 46.40. Auburn is fifth and seventh, Stanford sixth.
It took 46.85 to make the A final, that position occupied by Daniel DiToro of Texas. To make the B final, swimmers had to go at least 47.22.
200 yard freestyle
Michigan’s Dan Ketchum split 23.75 on his final 50 to lead all qualifiers in the 200 free at 1:34.84, just four-hundredths in front of Texas” Chris Kemp. Only eight-tenths of a second separate the eight finalists, and any one of these men could emerge the victor this evening.
Florida’s Adam Sioui, the defending champion, turned in the sixth fastest time this morning at 1:35.54.
This was Auburn’s “worst” event this morning, with only one swimmer (Clay Kirkland, fourth) making the A final and two the B final. Still, only Texas among the contending teams could match the Tigers.
100 yard breaststroke
This was the killer! While double defending champion Brendan Hansen cruised to the #1 qualifying spot in the 100 breast in 53.08, Auburn managed to place four men in the final: Pat Calhoun (second in 53.33), Will Brandt (third in 53.72), Justin Caron (seventh in 53.80) and Mark Gangloff (eighth in 53.87).
American University’s Dominick Szabo took the sixth spot in 53.77.
100 yard backstroke
Texas freshman Aaron Peirsol, ranked #1 in the world in the 100 meter backstroke last year, qualified in the top spot today in the 100 yard back in 46.27.
But this is Stanford’s best event today, as the Cardinal put three men in the A final, one in the B. Peter Marshall is Stanford’s best hope for gold. Though he qualified third this morning in 46.67, last night he swam a PR 45.32 leading off the medley relay. Randall bal (46.88) is fourth, and Dan Westcott (47.08) seventh. Jayme Cramer just missed the Big Final with his ninth-fastest 47.53.
Cal’s Alex Lim posted the second-fastest time this morning at 46.63 while Auburn’s Bryce hunt was eighth (47.29) Fifteen men swam sub-48.