BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, October 23. THE LSU swimming and diving teams gave No. 1-ranked Auburn all it could handle Friday, but the Tigers from Auburn responded with a pair of victories in LSU's season opener. Auburn's defending national champion men's team defeated LSU, 150-92. The LSU women, with some late individual charges fell, 135-107.
The lack of hotel availability left in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina nearly forced officials from both schools to cancel Friday's meet, but parents of the local Bengal Tiger Aquatic Club came through by housing Auburn's athletes.
"I'm really happy this worked out," said head coach Adam Schmitt. "It was a class act by Auburn to come down here considering all of the logistical issues we are facing following Hurricane Katrina."
Despite Friday's results, several individual times by LSU swimmers exemplified the positive direction the team is heading.
"There were some solid times across the board for this time of year," said Schmitt. "The team didn't back down out there today. They just kept pressing and pushing forward, and that showed in our last few races. I just wanted them to go out there and race."
Leading the way was sophomore sprinter Miko Malberg. Malberg dashed past two of the nation's best swimmers to win both the men's 50 and 100 freestyle events.
"I was really pumped up before the meet with the national champions coming into our pool," said the Estonian native. "That is what kept me going, and I wanted to win badly. It certainly was an emotional event for me."
Malberg's times were a half-second faster at this point in this season than last year. In the 50 free, he won with a clocking of 20.57. Malberg later capped his 22-point day with a time of 45.57 in the 100 free.
Freshman Julius Gloeckner wasted little time entering the LSU all-time top 10. Gloeckner swam the second-fastest 1000 free time in school history, taking second place at 9:23.32. Sophomore Kevin Braud won with a two-second cushion in the 200 back, swimming a time of 1:48.80.
On the women's side, sophomore Clare Schepens took home first-place honors in the 500 free with a clocking of 5:03.92. Schepens was part of a one-two finish by the Lady Tigers in the event as Sabrina Messmer placed second at 5:08.84.
Making her debut was freshman Sarah Bedell, a local product out of Episcopal High School. Bedell won the 200 breaststroke over Auburn's Adrienne Binder with a time of 2:25.69. Notable second-place finishes included Colleen Bertirotti in the 50 free (23.76) and 100 free (51.83) and Berit Aljand in the 200 back. Aljand's time of 2:01.56 registered as the fifth-fastest time in school history.
In diving, freshman Alyson Thomas was a double-winner in her first collegiate meet. Thomas, a native of Highland Village, Texas, scored a tally of 260.99 in the 1-meter and later captured the 3-meter with a score of 268.80. Sophomore All-American Niko Dalman took home second in the men's 3-meter (296.92), and freshman Nathan Schrieber was runner-up in the 1-meter (300.14).
With the victory, the Auburn men extended their consecutive dual win streak to 35 straight. Head coach David Marsh was pleased to visit Baton Rouge and take on two of his former assistant coaches, Schmitt and Morgan Bailey.
"The LSU team is a classy program," said Marsh. "They gave us a significant challenge and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was looking at the point sheet very hard down the stretch."
Schmitt served under Marsh for four seasons before leaving for Arizona State and then LSU. Marsh sees LSU as a program on the rise, comparing his teams several years ago to the current LSU team.
"Adam brings a terrific amount of intensity and passion to the table," said Marsh. "He also has tremendous support from the LSU community being that he was one of the greatest swimmer's in school history. I would compare him a lot to me, except I was nowhere near as good of a swimmer as he was."