By Phillip Whitten
AUSTIN, Texas, March 29. TO the surprise of no one, Auburn rolled to an overwhelming victory at the 2003 Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships, amassing 609.5 points to beat triple defending champion Texas, 413, and pre-meet favorite Stanford, 374.
Cal followed with 329 points for fourth place, its best finish since 1997, when it also finished fourth. USC was fifth (268), Florida sixth (232) and Minnesota seventh (228). Arizona placed eighth (205), Michigan ninth (173.5) and Virginia tenth (125).
Auburn’s awesome depth accounted for its masterful victory. The Tigers brought 18 swimmers and a diver, and all 19 athletes scored.
One statistic is particularly compelling: percentage of lifetime personal bests swum in prelims. Auburn swam 64% PBs in prelims (29 of 45 swims); Texas managed 47% (14 of 30) and Stanford 35% (13 of 37). These Tigers were hungry, and they were out to race every time they mounted the block.
Auburn’s victory was a historic event as it marked the first timed both the women’s and men’s crown were won in the same year by the same coaching team. David Marsh and Kim Brackin are Co-Head Coaches of the Tigers. Auburn Athletic Director David Housel was on hand to congratulate the most successful coaches in Auburn history.
Three American and NCAA marks fell tonight, highlighted by a barrier-busting 200 backstroke by Texas’ Aaron Peirsol. The Longhorn freshman was named “Swimmer of the Year” while Auburn’s David Marsh garnered “Coach of the Year.” He earned the same honor at the women’s meet last week.
Here’s how it went down tonight:
1650 yard freestyle
USC’s Erik Vendt was determined. After winning three events last year – the 500 free, 400 IM and 1650 free – he had every intention of repeating in ’03. He took the 500, but was ambushed by Robert Margalis on his way to his preordained medley win, losing by three-hundredths of a second. Bummer!
But Erik is nothing if not resilient. And tough. Today was a new day, and Erik was determined no one would prevent him from taking the “mile.” In fact, he was going to shoot for Chris Thompson’s NCAA and American record of 14:26.62.
He went for it from the start, taking the lead on the very first stroke and lengthening it almost every one of the 66 laps in this grueling race. Splitting 49.46 for his first 100 yards and 1:52.06 for the 200, he quickly opened up some clear water between himself and what turned out to be the fastest field in history, with all eight finalists swimming under 15 minutes.
Drawing energy from the crowd, Vendt touched in 14:29.85 – the second fastest time in history. Michigan freshman Peter Vanderkaay won a four-man battle for second with a 14:43.73 swim. Virginia’s Fran Crippen was third in 14:46.05, followed by Georgia Tech’s Shilo Ayalon (14:47.32) and USC’s Ous Mellouli (14:47.69).
200 yard backstroke
Lenny Krayzelburg couldn’t do it. Jeff Rouse couldn’t do it. Neither could Brian Retterer or Neil Walker. But Texas coach Eddie Reese predicted his super freshman Aaron Peirsol would break the 1:40 barrier. “Easily,” he said.
He was right.
“I’d like to see him go a 1:38.5,” he said, “but to do that he’d have to split 48.2 and people are pretty tired after two-and-a-half days of racing. But I think he can go a 1:39.”
Stanford’s Markus Rogan, the defending champion, had brashly predicted he’d beat Peirsol and he set out to prove it. Another Stanford swimmer, Peter Marshall, who won the 100 back yesterday, decided to go for broke over in lane eight.
At the 50, Marshall was well in front at 23.06, followed by Peirsol at 23.58 with Rogan fourth in 23.91. Marshall remained well in front at the halfway mark, turning in a blistering 48.46 with Rogan half a second back at 48.90 and Peirsol third in 48.95. Though he was third, Peirsol appeared relaxed and in command.
He wasn’t third for long. Executing a perfect turn, he took over the lead from a fading Marshall and a struggling Rogan. At the 150, it was Peirsol, 1:14.42; Rogan, 1:14.77; and Marshall, 1:15.04.
Firmly in control, Peirsol brought out his big guns, splitting the final 50 in 24.74 as he was cheered on by a roaring crowd, and touched in 1:39.16.
1:39.16!! A New American and NCAA record for Aaron, who became the first swimmer to break the 1:40 barrier. Mark Spitz was the first man to break 1:40 for 200 free. Aaron Peirsol is the first to do it for 200 back.
“It feels great!,” said an ebullient Peirsol as he was pounded by his celebrating teammates. “He could have been out a little faster,” said Reese, not quite able to conceal a prideful smile. “He’s got an even faster swim in him.”
Peirsol’s splits: 23.58 25.37 25.47 24.74
By 100s: 48.95 – 50.21
Rogan was second in 1:41.37, while Auburn’s Bryce Hunt slipped into third in 1:41.96, just ahead of Marshall, 1:42.08.
100 yard freestyle
Last year, Cal’s Anthony Ervin and Duje Draganja went one-two in the 100 free, with Ervin setting an American record. They aimed to repeat in ’03, but it wouldn’t be easy as the duo qualified in third (Draganja) and fourth (Ervin).
Ervin went for the gold at the start, turning in 19.82 at the 50, well ahead of the top qualifier, Auburn’s Ryan Wochomurka (20.20) and Draganja (20.21).
Ervin held his lead on the third lap, but as he came off the final turn it was clear he was tiring. The merciless field began to close. At the wall, it was another Cal sweep, but this time it was Draganja, the Croatian sophomore touching first in 42.02, history’s fifth fastest time, and Ervin second in 42.11. Three other men broke 43: Auburn’s Fred Bousquet (42.69), Auburn’s Wochomurka (42.79) and Arizona State’s Nick Brunelli (42.93).
200 yard breaststroke
Brendan Hansen was focused on completing his triple-double. The Texas junior already had won the 100 breast for the third straight time, notching the second fastest time in history, 51.96. Now he was going for #3 in a row in his stronger event, the 200 breast.
Last year, Hansen set the American/NCAA mark at 1:52.88 at this meet. This year his goal was to break that mark and get under 1:52. But last month, his arch-rival Ed Moses threw a monkey wrench in his plans. Swimming by himself at the ACC championships, he clocked an astonishing 1:51.88 – precisely one second better than Hansen’s record. Beating Moses’ time, even though it was not officially recognized, became the Texan’s new goal.
Hansen took the lead at the start, splitting 25.56 at the 50, with only Alabama freshman Vlad Polyakov trying to stay with him (25.84). Gradually, Hansen pulled away from the game Polyakov, splitting 54.15 to his rival’s 54.82. But Moses had split 53.60.
Hansen, the 2001 world champion in the 200 meter breaststroke, broke the race wide open on the third 50 with a super 28.66 split, but he couldn’t match it on the final 50 (29.81). When he hit the wall, the scoreboard read 1:52.62 – a new NCAA and American record. Polyakov, a kid with a golden future, followed in 1:55.39.
Hansen’s splits: 54.15 – 58.47
The triple champion seemed subdued. Afterwards he said: “Yes, I wanted to go under 1:52 and I wanted to beat Ed’s time, but he didn’t swim it after 11 races over three days. I’m looking forward to racing him next week.”
200 yard butterfly
Last year Alabama’s Stefan Gherghel came storming from behind on the final 50 to win the 200 fly. This year the Rumanian national champion decided: “Hey, if it worked one time why tamper with success?”
So he used precisely the same strategy and guess what? It worked again. Fifth at the 50, fifth at the 100, and fifth at the 150, he once again turned on the jets, passing each of his rivals and jammed the wall in 1:42.35.
Arizona’s Juan Veloz was second (1:4262) followed by top qualifier Michael Raab
of Virginia (1:42.89). Texas’ Rainer Kendrick who was fastest at the halfway mark (48.58), was fourth (1:43.61).
Gherghel’s splits: 23.52 26.57 26.09 26.17
By 100s: 50.09 – 52.26
10 meter platform diving
Caesar Garcia, that is.
It turns out Auburn not only has awesome swimmers, it has pretty good divers as well Garcia, a junior, shared the gold medal with Michigan’s Jason Coben, also a junior, as both scored 575.80 points.
USC’s Ray Vincent was third (563.25). Auburn added another 14 points when sophomore Matt Bricker placed fifth.
400 yard freestyle relay
Three years ago, Cal broke the 2:50 barrier for the first time in the 400 yard freestyle relay, but a year later Texas lowered the mark to 2:49.80.
This year, Cal qualified first in 2:53.54, two-tenths ahead of Auburn, as both teams had their eye on Texas’ mark.
The Bears led off with Duje Draganja, whose 42.60 was a bit faster than Auburn’s George Bovell’s 42.77. Cal’s Mike Cavic added to the lead with a 42.31, followed by Ryan’s Wochomurka at 42.46. Halfway through the race, it had come down to these two teams.
Cal’s Joe Bruckart extended the Bears’ lead with a 42.30 while Auburn’s Matt Kidd could manage only a 42.98.
Auburn’s Fred Bousquet anchored in a meet-fastest 41.47, but Anthony Ervin brought the Bears home in 41.78, giving them the win and the record at 2:48.99. Auburn, at 2:49.68, was also under the old mark.
1) AUBURN 609.5 21) INDIANA 24
2) TEXAS 413 22) BRIGHAM YOUNG 22
3) STANFORD 374 22) MIAMI 22
4) CALIFORNIA 329 24) HAWAII 21
5) SOUTHERN CAL. 268 25) SOUTHERN METHOD. 20
6) FLORIDA 232 26) NORTHWESTERN 19.5
7) MINNESOTA 228 27) OAKLAND 17
8) ARIZONA 205 28) GEORGIA TECH 15
9) MICHIGAN 173.5 28) WYOMING 15
10) VIRGINIA 125 28) AMERICAN 15
11) ARIZONA STATE 116.5 31) HARVARD 13
12) ALABAMA 115 32) FLORIDA STATE 9
13) WISCONSIN 105 32) NORTH CAROLINA 9
14) GEORGIA 104 34) PURDUE 7
15) TEXAS A&M 90 34) PENN STATE 7
16) TENNESSEE 86 36) PITTSBURGH 6
17) KENTUCKY 70 37) MISSOURI 4
18) LOUISIANA STATE 58 38) COLUMBIA 3
19) PRINCETON 43 39) IOWA 2
20) SOUTH CAROLINA 31 40) DREXEL 1
INDIVIDUAL HIGH POINT:
1) VENDT, ERIK SR SOUTHERN CAL. 57
2) BOUSQUET, FRED SO AUBURN 48
2) MOSS, CLAYTON SR KENTUCKY 48
4) MELLOULI, OUS FR SOUTHERN CAL. 45
4) HANSEN, BRENDAN JR TEXAS 45
6) PEIRSOL, AARON FR TEXAS 44
7) LOCHTE, RYAN FR FLORIDA 42
7) KEMP, CHRIS SR TEXAS 42
9) GARCIA, CAESAR JR AUBURN 41.5
10) MARGALIS, ROBERT SO GEORGIA 39
11) VANDERKAAY, PETER FR MICHIGAN 38
12) PUHAKKA, JOONA ARIZONA STATE 37
12) CRAMER, JAYME SO STANFORD 37
12) BAL, RANDALL SR STANFORD 37
15) KENDRICK, RAINER SO TEXAS 36
15) ROGAN, MARKUS JR STANFORD 36
15) MARSHALL, PETER JR STANFORD 36
15) DRAGANJA, DUJE SO CALIFORNIA 36
19) KNOWLES, JEREMY JR AUBURN 33
19) ERVIN, ANTHONY SR CALIFORNIA 33