By Bill Bell
LONG BEACH, CA., March 1. HIS first swim was just an easy, get-to-know-the-pool qualifier in the final heat of the morning, and resulted "only" in a Pac-10 meet record 19.30 and the fastest time in the country.
Then, at night, Cal's Olympic gold medalist, Anthony Ervin, began to get serious. Leading off the Golden Bears' 200 free relay in the meet's opening event, he raced to a pr and meet record 19.22, but his splendid effort fell just short as Stanford won the race in nation-leading 1:17.63 to Cal's runner-up 1:17.77, second-fastest this season.
Now it was time for Ervin to REALLY show his stuff, and the Cal soph didn't disappoint. Taking off like a rocket, Ervin used a mere 13 strokes to get to the wall at 25 yards, foot-touching in a hand-time of 9-seconds flat. Then, breaking free after the turn from Stanford's Anthony Robinson, Ervin powered home in 10.11 for an overall 19.11 victory.
The time was his third Pac-10 meet record in a little more than six hours, a Cal and Pac-10 record (old record was 19.15 by Matt Biondi that won the 1987 NCAAs in Texas) and of course No. 1 nationally.
How good is 19.11? For starters, its fourth on the all-time performers-performances list and just off Arizona's Roland Schoeman's NCAA record 19.07 from the Longhorn Invitational in Austin in December of 1999. Former UCLA star Tom Jager holds the American record with his 19.05 from the 1990 U.S. Nationals in Nashville and No. 3 is former Texas star Neil Walker's 19.08 from the 1997 NCAAs in Minneapolis. Biondi did a 19.12 when Jager did that 19.05.
Asked what Ervin would do when he's "shaved, tapered and rested" Cal associate coach Mike Bottom, who helped guide him to the gold last September in Sydney, replied: "He is." Asked if Ervin could become the first swimmer under the "magic" 19-second barrier, Bottom answered: "We'll see."
Cal coach Nort Thornton declined to compare his two great sprinters, i.e., Biondi and Ervin, but noted that the latter almost didn't return to collegiate swimming last fall after his Sydney victory.
"Everything happened so fast that Anthony was kind of unsure which way he wanted to take his career. But his teammates were very instrumental in helping persuade him to return to the team and of course we're thrilled that he's with us again."
Stanford, bidding for an unprecedented 20th-straight Pac-10 Championship, holds a 249-194 lead over USC with Cal third (146.5), followed by No. 11 Arizona (111), Arizona State (76.5) and No. 25 Washington (65). The scoring totals do not include the diving results,however, which are being held separately.
It looked like Cal had a lock on the 200 free relay after Ervin's 19.22 leadoff split, followed by Matt Macedo's 19.09 and Scott Greenwood's 19.59 legs. At the three quarters mark the Bears led, 57.90-58.50, but then Stanford's Jeff Guyman threw in a 19.13 anchor leg and that was all she wrote.
The Trojans' 400 meter freestyle American record-holder, freshman Klete Keller, pulled away from teammate and fellow Olympian Erik Vendt about the 250-yard mark and powered to a 4:16.65-4:18.27 500 free victory. Stanford's Adam Messner was third (4:19.72) with all three men going under the NCAA automatic cut of 4:20.75.
Keller's time is his pr and third-fastest nationally behind Michigan's Chris Thompson's leading 4:16.22 and Virginia's Ian Pritchard's 4:16.32. Vendt's time is also a pr and ranks him sixth nationally.
Another freshman — Stanford's Austrian import Markus Rogan — showed his heels to the field in the 200 IM and won in a pr and No. 2 national 1:45.92. Rogan took the measure of SC's Tamas Kerekjarto, who went a pr and No. 3 national 1:46.12. Rogan took the lead after the backstroke leg (48.02), extended the margin after the breaststroke segment (1:20.45) and looked strong in stroking to his first collegiate title.
The national leader is Florida's Duncan Sherrard's 1:45.38 from last week's Southeast Conference Championships at Tuscaloosa. No. 4 is Auburn's Jeff Somensatto (1:46.23p), also from SECs.
The 50 was all Ervin with Stanford's Anthony Robinson's 19.48 equalling his pr from the 1998 NCAAs. The former Pac-10 meet record was a 19.36 by Cal's Polish Olympian, Bart Kizierowski, from last year's meet in Federal Way — which was also the former fastest 50 in a conference championship.
The 400 medley relay went to Stanford in a nation-leading 3:11.65, with Cal runner-up (3:12.44 — No. 2 nationally). Ervin almost got the win for Cal, splitting a sizzling 41.52 anchor.
Interestingly, Stanford could possibly have broken its meet record (3:10.50 from '95) had it used Rogan as the "A" team backstroker. Instead the Cardinal went with freshman Peter Marshall, who led off in 48.54. However, Rogan led off the Cardinal's "B" relay in 47.65, his pr and second-fastest split of the meet. Only USC's Jeff Lee's 47.64 was quicker.
Think Stanford coach Skip Kenney may rethink his lineup come NCAAs?
200 YD Freestyle Relay
1. Stanford, 1:17.63 (19.98, Randall Bal; 39.24, Anthony Robinson; 58.50, Bobby O'Bryan; 1:17.63, Jeff Guyman)
2. Cal 1:17.77 (19.11, Anthony Ervin; 38.31, Matt Macedo; 57.90, Scott Greenwood; 1:17.77, Frank Uxa)
3. Arizona, 1:19.10
4. USC, 1:19.52
500 YD FREESTYLE
1. Klete Keller, USC, 4:16.65
2. Erik Vendt, USC, 4:18.27
3. Adam Messner, Stanford, 4:19.72
4. Mark Warkentin, 4:21.10
200 YD IND. MEDLEY
1. Markus Rogan, Stanford, 1:45.92
2. Tamas Kerekjarto, USC, 1:46.12
3. Steve Brown, Stanford, 1:47.11
4. Rob Canales, Stanford, 1:47.13
50 YD FREESTYLE
1. Anthony Ervin, Cal, 19.11*
2. Anthony Robinson, Stanford, 19.48
3. Roland Schoeman, Arizona, 19.58
4. Matt Macedo, Cal, 19.67
400 YD MEDLEY RELAY
1. Stanford, 3:11.65 (Peter Marshall, 48.54; [52.93, Anthony Robinson], [Dan Westcott, 46.93]; [Adam Messner, 42.19])
2. Cal, 3:12.44
3. USC, 3:12.98
4. Arizona, 3:14.96