By Phillip Whitten
AUBURN, Alabama, March 21. AUBURN extended its lead on Day Two of the Women's NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, all but assuring themselves of a second consecutive title.
As the second day of competition came to an end, Auburn held a 127 point advantage over SEC rival, Georgia. Stanford, swimming well, is in third a handful of points ahead of USC, Texas, Florida and SMU.
The Tigers punctuated Day Two with two impressive relay victories.
200 medley relay
In the evening's first final, the team of Jenni Anderson (back, 24.97), Laura Swander (breast, 27.20), Margaret Hoelzer (fly 22.98) and Becky Short (free, 21.54) clocked an NCAA and American record 1:36.69 to win the 200 medley relay. The time shattered the old mark, set by Auburn earlier this year, by precisely one second. Stanford was second and Cal third.
Cal's Natalie Coughlin had the fastest backstroke split, 24.20. Stanford's Tara Kirk swam the speediest breaststroke leg, 26.81. Hoelzer's 22.98 was the fastest fly split, while Becky Short's 21.54 topped all freestylers.
Something to think about: Auburn's entire relay will be back next year.
400 medley relay
Auburn's Maggie Bowen was shooting to break one of the oldest marks in the book: Summer Sanders' 4:02.28 for the 400 IM, set precisely 11 years ago. After swimming 4:05.82 at the SECs, Maggie had a definite shot.
Alas, it wasn't to be. Bowen stroked to her third straight title — becoming only the second woman to accomplish the feat (Tracy Caulkins accomplished it in 1982, '83 and '84 — but her time of 4:06.15 was slower than she had hoped for. Still, it was more than enough to win against a very talented and uniformly fast field.
Taking the lead at the halfway mark, Bowen extended her margin in the breaststroke, then held off Arizona's Emily Mason for the victory.
Mason touched in 4:07.07, just edging USC's Kaitlin Sandeno at 4:07.20. Sara McLarty (4:07.840 and Alenka Kejzar (4:08.63) made this race arguably the deepest in history.
100 yard butterfly
Throughout 2002, it seemed that every time Cal's Natalie Coughlin dove in the water, she set another record. Here in Auburn, she is proving once again that she is head and shoulders above the rest of the world, but even she can't set a record every time she swims.
Natalie took the 100 fly tonight in 50.62, well off her own American/NCAA mark of 50.01, but still faster than any other woman has ever swum. Georgia's Mary Descenza, sixth at the 50, was second in 51.93, while Auburn's Margaret Hoelzer was third in 52.03.
200 yard freestyle
Before this morning, Georgia's Maritza Correia was favored to win the 200 free, an event she won as a freshman. But Ritz, who already has swum the fastest-ever 50 (21.18) and 100 yard (46.86) splits in history, had no miracles left in her bag of tricks this day, managing only to qualify 14th.
That left the race wide open, with any of the eight finalists capable of winning. Two of them did.
North Carolina's Jessi Perruquet came roaring from behind on the final 50 to catch Auburn's Heather Kemp at the wall, as both women touched simultaneously in 1:45.01. Another fast closer — Georgia's Julie Hardt — was right behind in 1:45.14.
Tara Kirk is arguably the most dominant women's 100 yard breaststroker in history. The only woman ever to break 59 seconds, she did it once again tonight, touching in 58.62 seconds — second fastest ever — to win the event for the third straight year.
The time was just off her American/NCAA mark of 58.41 set at the Pac-10 Championships last month.
Maggie Bowen was second in 59.86, 3-hundredths ahead of Georgia's Sarah Poewe.
The final featured three Germans (Poewe, Anne Poleska and Vipa Bernhardt) and a Hungarian (Agnes Kovacs) among the eight finalists.
100 yard backstroke
Just as she did in the 100 fly, Natalie Coughlin proved she is easily the world's dominant woman in the 100 yard backstroke, taking the measure of a deep, talented field with an enormous margin of victory.
The Cal junior clocked 50.92 to win her third straight crown in this event. While the time was almost a second slower than her NCAA/American mark of 49.97 set last year, it was more than two full seconds faster than the second fastest swimmer!
No other woman broke 51 seconds. None broke 52 seconds. Nor did any other woman crack 53.
Auburn's Kirsty Coventry took silver in 53.01, followed by 1996 Olympic champion Beth Botsford of Arizona at 53.46. The next three swimmers also swam 53s.
3-meter springboard diving
Houston's Yulia Pakhalina, who won the 3-meter diving event for her native Russia at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, successfully defended her NCAA crown with an overwhelming triumph.
Pakhalina scored 657.30 points, well ahead of USC's Blythe Hartley — herself a 2000 Olympian for Canada — at 585.15 points. Alabama's Lane Bassham was third with 561.85 points.
800 freestyle relay
The evening ended just as it began — with an overwhelming Auburn relay victory. This time it was the 800 free relay.
The Tiger squad of Margaret Hoelzer (1:45.37), Heather Kemp (1:45.50), Kirsty Coventry (1:45.12) and Iron Woman Maggie Bowen (1:46.73) combined for an NCAA meet record of 7:02.72, the second fastest time ever swum.
Auburn set the NCAA and US Open mark of 7:01.00 at this year's SECs.
Georgia was second in 7:05.69, with USC third in 7:09.80.
Hoelzer's 1:45.37 was the fastest leadoff split, while Coventry's 1:45.12 was the fastest split from a relay start.
2003 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship
after 14 of 21 events
1) AUBURN 389
2) GEORGIA 262
3) STANFORD 202.5
4) SOUTHERN CAL. 198
5) TEXAS 192
5) FLORIDA 192
7) SOUTHERN METHOD. 188
8) CALIFORNIA 154
9) ARIZONA 136
10) VIRGINIA 78
11) WISCONSIN 77
12) ARIZONA STATE 74
13) UCLA 73
14) MICHIGAN 61
15) ALABAMA 54
15) TENNESSEE 54
17) NORTH CAROLINA 42.5
18) IOWA 41
18) HOUSTON 41
20) PENN STATE 36
21) SOUTH CAROLINA 35
22) WASHINGTON 29
23) MARYLAND 26
24) PURDUE 23
25) INDIANA 21
26) MIAMI (FLORIDA) 18
27) PACIFIC 16
28) LOUISIANA STATE 15
29) RICE 12
30) VILLANOVA 10
31) MINNESOTA 9
31) NOTRE DAME 9
33) ARKANSAS 8
34) SAN DIEGO 6
35) OREGON STATE 5
36) FLORIDA STATE 2
37) WASHINGTON STATE 1