AUSTIN, TX., March 3. SKIP KENNEY has nothing on Eddie Reese. Reese, the veteran Texas coach whose Longhorns are defending national champs, took a step closer to a second-consecutive NCAA title here this evening with a smashing 1105-622-point victory over Texas A&M and five other schools in the finals of the Big 12 Championships in the friendly confines of its home Texas Swimming Center pool.
The victory was Reese's 22nd-consecutive conference championship, placing him two ahead of Stanford's Kenney, who won his 20th-straight Pac-10 title at Long Beach's Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool tonight.
Certainly these two coaches' winning streaks are the longest extant in Division 1 competition and may well be longest in NCAA history at this level. UCLA's Al Scates has won 17 NCAA volleyball championships since the sport received official recognition in 1970 but even he has lost conference titles now and again and never wracked up 20- or 22 consecutive league crowns.
Reese has won the Big 12 Championship each of the five years of its existence and had 17 Southwest Conference titles prior to that. The SWC was where the 'Horns competed for nearly one hundred years until the breakup of that conference and of the Big 8 too — with the two subsequently morphing into the Big 12 in the mid '90s.
Similar to his Stanford counterpart, Reese has seven NCAA Championships to his credit — including six in the past dozen years.
Coach Mel Nash's A&M Aggies will be the host institution for the men's NCAA Championships in three weeks, and the longtime College Station headman will no doubt be thrilled to leave Austin for home after getting a sever "whuppin."
Third was Iowa State (487.5), fourth was Nebraska (475.5), fifth was Missouri (353.5) and sixth was Kansas (275.5).
The win also marks the widest margin of victory in either Big 12, SWC or Big 8 history. The previous record was 358 points set by the 'Horns at the Y2K Big 12 Championships. For the non-mathematically inclined, Texas won by 483 points.
The 'Horns were led by senior Olympian Nate Dusing, a multi-talented flyer-IMer who this season has focused on the backstroke; and freshman sprinter-flyer Ian Crocker, who set the American record in the 100 meter butterfly at last year's Olympics, breaking the old mark held by former Texas star Neil Walker.
Dusing has always been on the cusp of greatness, but has yet to achieve the pinnacle of collegiate swimming success, i.e., an individual NCAA title. However, if he swims at Aggieland like he did in his own backyard this weekend, that elusive NCAA gold will be a thing of the past. Dusing won the 200 IM opening day in a nation- leading, meet-record and pr 1:44.31, ranking ninth on the all-time performances' list and fourth performer. His previous pr had been a 1:45.50 against Georgia at Athens earlier this season.
On Day 2, Dusing "allowed" Crocker to win the 100 fly, qualifying first in 46.59 (.01 off his pr 46.58 from the 1998 NCAAs at Auburn) but finishing second in 47.44. Crocker won in a pr 46.64, ranking him third going into the NCAAs behind Dusing and leader Zsolt Gaspar of South Carolina (46.58 from the SECs). Crocker opened the meet with a pr 19.70 50 free victory.
Tonight Dusing showed he was equally adept on his back as on his front side as he swam the second-fastest 200 back in 'Horns' history, a nation-leading and pr 1:41.94, to easily defeat triple defending champ and teammae Matt Ulrickson. The latter touched in 1:46.15 but went 1:45.18 to qualify second. His pr is 1:44.58 from last year's Big 12s. The Texas 200 back record belongs to Walker (1:41.72), done at the innaugural Big 12s five years ago.
Until this year Dusing had never been under 1:47 but "in post-Olympic years I like to vary the swimmer's training a bit so we decided to work on backstroke and IM," Reese explains, modestly failing to add that the results couldn't have worked out more perfectly.
Although he won but one event, the 400 IM, Missouri freshman Matt Ferreralli, a British import in his first collegiate season, showed he may well ascend into the elite echelons of Big 12 swimming before his career is through. He set three prs and three Tiger school records at the meet, including that 3:47.38 IM win over Texas' Joey Montague. His other placings were fourth in the 200 IM (1:47.45) and 200 back (1:46.57).
Crocker almost got his third gold in the 100 free when he finished second to teammate Jamie Rauch, a fellow Olympian, 43.56-43.71. Interestingly, Crocker went the same exact time in both prelims and finals. Third was 'Horn Chris Kemp (43.79). The NCAA automatic cut is 43.64 and all three should make it in.
He likely won't swim the 100 free at NCAAs as it is on the same day as the 200 back-fly but Dusing's 43 flat relay leadoff must have opened even Reese's eyes a bit, as that time is second-fastest nationally.
Texas went a very fast 2:51.34 to win the 400 sprint relay and ranks No. 1. Besides Dusing's super leadoff, Crocker was next with a 42.95 second leg, followed by Kemp's 42.74 and Rauch's 43.63. The American-NCAA record is 2:49.85 by Cal from last year's Pac-10 Championships in Federal Way and with Anthony Ervin anchoring the Golden Bears' foursome it should provide some super-fast swimming in College Station.
Texas freshman Brendan Hansen, who won the 100 breast, added the 200 to his collection with a Big 12, Texas and Big 12 meet record 1:55.92 — No. 2 nationally. Only Auburn's Dave Denniston (1:55.37 at SECs) has been faster. The American-NCAA record is 1:53.77 by Michigan's Mike Barrowman, who set his mark at Indy 11 years ago. The following year Barrowman won Olympic gold at Barcelona with a world record that still stands.
Texas' Tommy Hannan, yet another Sydney Olympian (you'd think America's two favorite colors are orange and white!) raced to the meet's final individual win with a 1:44.97 200 fly clocking. The time is his career-best, breaking the old pr of 1:45.03 from last Big 12s.
Texas has been ranked No. 1 nationally for the last two years, since the first poll came out in the fall of 1999. The 'Horns' smashing Big 12 victory shouldn't do anything to dissuade the voters from maintaining the status quo — at least until the last weekend of the month.
- Bill Bell