By Roots Woodruff
TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Feb. 3. IT was senior day at the Alabama Aquatic Center and the old folks among the Crimson Tide Swimming and Diving teams held their own against the Gamecocks of South Carolina. Kelly Coellner, Emily Donohue, Oren Azrad, JP Richard, Nic Stoel and Matt Wilsie all swam their last regular season meet wearing the crimson and white of Alabama.
Alabama's women won the meet 174-114 while the men lost 160-134.
"It was a great day for our seniors, and our team as a whole," head coach Don Wagner said. "Obviously we have a ways to go, but I think that we're going pretty good right now and things will continue to improve. My hope and goal at the upcoming conference championships is that we compete at the top end of our capabilities. If we do that, then everything else will take care of itself."
Coellner anchored the women's opening relay to a win and followed that up with a win in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle. Her mark in the 100 backstroke makes her the sixth fastest in Tide history.
Stoel, Wilsie and Azrad swam the back half of the Tide's winning 200 medley relay after freshman Jordie Proffitt got them started. Richard won the 1000 freestyle while Stoel added another exclamation to his performance, winning both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes.
Not to be outdone, the Tide's youth movement made their presence felt as well. Freshman sensation Anne Poleska broke yet another school and Alabama Aquatic Center record. Just a week after lowering the 200 breaststroke records, Poleska, who joined the Crimson Tide for the second semester, shattered the 100 breaststroke records, going 1:01.79. She bettered the
former school record by half a second and the pool record, set in 1983 by U.S. swimming legend Tracy Caulkins, by a little more than 3/10ths. The uber-rookie also won the 200 breaststroke (2:15.73) and the 100 butterfly (57.07).
Freshman Catalina Casaru continued to show her versatility, winning the 200 freestyle, 200 backstroke and 400 IM. Her time in the 400 IM (4:23.93) puts
her fifth on the Crimson Tide's all-time top-10 list.
Junior Marcy Warriner won the 50 freestyle (23.90) and finished second in the 100 breast while Katherine
Bortenlanger took first off the one-meter springboard. Freshmen Lisa Andersson and Katie Merriam combined with Warriner and Coellner to finish off the meet with a win in the 200 freestyle relay.
Hungarian import Zsolt Gaspar was the key factor in the Gamecocks' victory in the men's contest. Gaspar won three events in stellar time–the 200 free (1:37.59, 50 free (20.17) and 100 free (45.01–then anchored South Carolina's winning 200 freestyle relay (1:23.67).
Another Hungarian, Istvan Bathazi, ran away with the 400 IM, winning by eight seconds and posting a strong 3:52.96.
While this was the last regular season meet of the season, the Tide will be back in action in two weeks, when it plays host to the 2001 Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships.