By Phillip Whitten
AUSTIN, Texas, March 27. THE Auburn Tigers didn't just growl this evening. They roared!!
Still riding a high from their women's team's national title last week, in which they cut through the opposition like Sherman marching through Georgia, the Tigers came to Texas fixin' to nail down the men's crown.
No matter that Swimming World picked them third, or that the CSCAA slated them for second. This morning the Tigers showed up determined to match their women's crown with one of their own. They more than met their expectations, dominating the qualifications.
But that was prelims. It gets you into the dance, but you gotta' move those feet to the beat if you want to go home a winner.
The Tigers were ready to dance. Hip-hop, break dance, moon walk, cha cha cha, lambada — whatever — they were ready to move and groove. And swim.
Here's how this evening's races went.
200 yard freestyle relay
Top-seeded Stanford was not intimidated by Auburn, qualifying first in 1:16.85, just 36-hundredths off their own NCAA/American record set last year. But as chants of "Auburn relay, Auburn relay" sounded and resounded through the natatorium, the Tigers — who qualified four swimmers in the final of the 50 — seemed poised to upset the Cardinal.
But Stanford is tough. Randall Bal led off in 19.63 to Auburn Ryan Wochomurka's 19.71, though Arizona State's Nick Brunelli led the field at 19.58.
The Cardinal took over the lead and stretched its margin over Auburn to 15-hundredths with Peter Marshall's 18.93 to Derek Gibb's 19.00.
The Cardinal increased the lead to over half a second with Andrew Schnell's schnell 19.43, getting the better of Matt Kidd's 19.79.
Auburn tried to pull off a miracle as Fred Bousquet anchored in 18.78. But Bobby O'Bryan's 19.04 was easily enough to clinch the victory for Stanford in 1:17.03. Auburn followed in 1:17.28, with Cal — propelled by Anthony Ervin's 18.58 — third in 1:17.39.
500 yard freestyle
Last year Georgia's Robert Margalis qualified first in the 500 free, only to have his goggles slip off his eyes on the dive. Frustrated, he finished eighth.
This morning he qualified first again, only two-hundredths ahead of USC's Erik Vendt, the favorite. Would history repeat itself?
No way, Jose.
Margalis went for it right from the start and held the lead through 450 yards. At the 100 he led Vendt by one-hundredth (48.61 to 48.62) and Vendt's freshman teammate Ous Mellouli by 22-hundredths.
Gradually, the two leaders pulled away from a very strong field and it became a two-man race with Margalis ahead by 31-hundredths at 200 yards and 38-hundredths at 300 yards. Then, Vendt began to creep up, cutting the margin to only 11-hundredths of a second at 400 yards. Tenacious as ever, Vendt took the lead right after the 450 turn and pulled away to win in 4:13.63 to Margalis's 4:14.24.
Mellouli had a powerful 50.59 final 100 to win the battle of the freshmen and take third in 4:15.50. Michigan frosh Peter Vanderkaay followed in 4:15.69 with Virginia first year man Fran Crippen fifth in 4:16.48.
Georgia coach Jack Bauerle was delighted with Margalis's performance. "The biggest thing was the goggles," he said, smiling. "After Robert got through the first 15 yards with his goggles intact, I felt a lot better about the race."
200 yard individual medley
This morning, Auburn freshman George Bovell threw down the gauntlet in the 200 IM, clocking an impressive 1:44.12 — more than a second ahead of the rest of the field, which included Stanford's Markus Rogan, the defending champion.
Tonight, though, the 19 year-old from Trinidad and Tobago showed why he is going to be a force to contend with in Athens, as he destroyed a very fast field and slashed the NCAA mark along the way. In the process, he became the first Trinidadian (Trinidaddy?) to set an NCAA swimming record. (No, Gerry Rodrigues did not beat him to it.)
Texas' Rainer Kendrick, swimming in lane one, took the race out very hard, splitting 21.97 for the 50 fly. Cal's Joe Bruckart followed in 22.50, while Bovell stayed easy and smooth with a 23.19, fifth to the turn.
Markus Rogan split 25.19 for the backstroke, just ahead of Bovell's 25.25. But at the halfway mark it was still Outside Smoke Kendrick in the lead at 47.68. Rogan was second, still well back at 48.41 with Bovell now third at 48.44.
But then Bovell flipped and began groovin' to a calypso beat. One monster pullout, a few strokes, and he was in the lead, the steel drums playing in his mind.
The freshman blew the field away with his 29.85 breaststroke split… and then he had more. Streaking through the final 50 free, Bovell split 24.37 to light up the scoreboard. 1:42.66! (The crowd erupted).
A new NCAA record, breaking Nate Dusing's 1:42.85 from 2001.
Cal's Joe Bruckart, a senior who is having a career year, slipped into second (1:44.30) with Kendrick hanging on to third (1:44.51). Stanford's Rogan and Dan Trupin, one-two last year, finished a disappointing fifth and sixth.
Afterwards, a calm, almost-smiling Auburn coach Dave Marsh commented: "George is very talented and has been improving week-by-week during the year. He's the kind of guy who loves big meets. He surprised me, though, tonight. I though he'd go a 1:43-low.'
Aside from Marsh's tutoring and his hard work, Bovell comes from an athletic family. His dad swam intercollegiately in Canada, while his mom was an Olympic finalist for Barbados in the 400 meter run.
50 yard freestyle
The 50 free shaped up as a battle between two Johnny-come-latelies who swam next to each other in prelims and qualified one-two, separated by one-hundredth of a second.
Frenchman Frederick Bousquet, who arrived in Auburn ("you're not in Paris…or even Kansas anymore, Dorothy") in January, and Olympic 50m free co-champion
Anthony Ervin of Cal, who didn't even show up to workouts until January.
The field exploded from the blocks together, forming a foaming, frothing line of arms as eight swimmers vied for sprint glory. Tennessee's Renato Gueraldi, a junior from Brazil, seemed to have a centimeter or two on the field at the turn, but couldn't quite hold that lead and began to fall back.
Coming home, it was Bousquet who inched ahead of the field and then, improbably, jammed the wall to win in 19.31. The second consecutive win for the toothed felines from "somewhere in the South," as Marsh put it last year!
Cal freshman Mike Cavic, last year's Swimming World "High School Swimmer of the Year" snuck by his teammate Ervin to grab second in 19.37, with Ervin at 19.38.
Even Anthony Ervin, it seems, needs more than two months practice to win a national title.
Arizona State's Joona Puhakka only qualified sixth in this afternoon's prelims. But he came ready to boogie tonight.
The freshman from Finland strutted his stuff this evening, winning his first NCAA title in dominating fashion. The newly-minted Sun Devil amassed 395.80 points, almost 37 more than runner-up Andy Bradley of South Carolina.
Auburn picked up 15 points via a ninth place by Caesar Garcia and a twelfth courtesy of Matt Bricker. Texas, which won the team title last year by virtue of its diving prowess was shut out of the points, while Stanford did not have a diver in the event.
400 yard medley relay
They keep warning the unwary visitor: "Don't mess with Texas." It's like a giant yard sign saying "No trespassing. Killer dog resides here."
They were right.
The Longhorns made a statement to close out Day One, smashing the American record of 3:05.37 set by — yuup, Texas — in 2001.
The race shaped up as a battle between the "Horns and the Tigers, who qualified in a tie for first while swimming side-by-side in prelims. But the battle never developed.
Stanford took the lead on the strength of Peter Marshall's impressive 45.32 leadoff leg. Texas' Aaron Peirsol had a tremendous finish to follow in [an unofficial] 45.50, with Cal's Alex Lim (46.41) and Auburn's Bryce Hunt (46.58) a second back.
And then Brendan Hansen, double-defending champion in the 100 breast, blew the race open with an awesome [but unofficial] 51.45 breaststroke split. Auburn's Pat Calhoun, a 2000 Olympian, split 52.58 in a vain effort to keep pace. Stanford's Michael Bruce went 53.14 to put the Cardinal in second.
The hits kept on coming for Texas, as 100 fly American record-holder Ian Crocker lengthened the Horns' lead with a devastating 45.11 split. Stanford's Dan Westcott split 45.71 and Auburn's Andy Haidinyak 45.94, and it was all over but the shouting.
Chris Kemp delivered the coup de grace with a 42.41 split and the 'Horns were home in 3:04.47.
Stanford followed in 3:07.24 with Auburn, anchored by Bousquet's 42.18, third just 4-hundredths back.
At the end of Day One the team scores stood at:
1. Auburn 206
2. Stanford 121
3. California 115
4. Texas 107