ORLANDO, Fla., March 8. THE NCAA championship season kicks off Wednesday with the Division II Championships (men and women) at the YMCA Aquatic and Family Center in Orlando.
The four-day affair opens with men's and women's finals in the 1,000 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 200 medley relay and three-meter diving for the men.
Cal State-Bakersfield is the defending men's champion and looking for a sixth crown in eight years and 14th overall. Truman State is after a fifth straight women's championship.
Led by Piotr Gegotek and Greg Mroz, Bakersfield is expected to be pushed on the male side by the regular challengers, including Drury and North Dakota. Gegotek is the defending champ in the 100 and 200 free events and Mroz is the defending 500 titlist.
Drury has a number of returning champions, including Jakub Jiracek, who won the 100 and 200 breast events and both individual medley events last year. Henril Weible is the defending champ in the 1,000 and 1,650 freestyles.
In the women's competition, California-San Diego's Rosanna Delurgio is expected to be the standout performer. The top breaststroker in the division, Delurgio set an NCAA record recently in the 200 distance of her specialty event.
As for the team race, Truman will be pushed by UCSD. Truman State will rely on the talents of Diana Betsworth, Sarah Dance and Christina Blose.
Drury features defending champ Natalie Cardoza in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyles. Cara Fadel is among the nation's top backstrokers.