BY Kevin Noth, SwimInfo Special Correspondent
Photos by Tim Morse
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, March 24. CAL made an immediate statement that the Golden Bears are prepared to challenge two-time defending champion Auburn for the team title at the 2005 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. In the opening event at this year’s championships, Cal’s 200 freestyle relay team tied an NCAA meet record and qualified first for this evening’s finals.
The team of Roland Gimbutis (19.45), Evan Lane (19.26), Jonas Tilly (18.96) and Duje Draganja (18.82) clocked a record time of 1:16.49 in the prelims, tying the NCAA meet mark set by Auburn last year.
Auburn will be seeded second (1:16.97) behind Fred Bousquet’s anchor split of 18.66, the fastest of the morning. Kentucky followed in third, Arizona in fourth and Texas in fifth. Stanford, Florida and host Minnesota round out the top-eight squads qualifying for the finals.
Minnesota’s Justin Mortimer chased down Michigan’s Peter Vanderkaay to qualify first for the finals in the 500 freestyle. Vanderkaay led throughout, swimming a controlled race, but could not hold off Mortimer who closed with a final 100 split of 50.60, touching first in 4:14.21. Vanderkaay, the defending event champion, will be seeded second after recording a 4:14.29. Arizona’s Tyler DeBerry followed in third and Stanford’s Shaun Phillips was fourth, both clocking swims of sub-4:15.
Larsen Jensen, Matt McGinnis, Robert Margalis, and Ous Mellouli round out the field of 500 freestyle finalists.
Eric Shanteau of Auburn recorded the fastest time in the 200 individual medley, edging out fellow SEC competitior Ryan Lochte of Florida. Swimming in the fourth heat, Shanteau used a brisk 50 breaststroke split (29.75) to clock in at 1:44.38, while Lochte, the American record-holder in the event, marked 1:44.64.
Dave Rollins of Arizona was only .05 seconds behind in third and Purdue’s Louis Paul was the fourth swimmer under 1:45 in the event. Doug Van Wie is the fifth-place qualifier and gives the Tigers two great scoring chances in the final. Tobias Oriwol, John Dorr, and Adam Mitchell are the final three qualifiers for the finals.
By far the most exciting performance of the afternoon was Auburn senior Fred Bousquet’s record-setting swim in the 50 freestyle. Bousquet recorded the fastest 50-yard freestyle in history, clocking an incredible 18.74 seconds. It is the first sub-19 second 50 freestyle ever, obliterating the previous NCAA and U.S. Open mark of 19.05 set by California’s Anthony Ervin in 2002.
Swimming in lane six of the final heat, Bousquet’s first 25 yard split was 9.26 seconds. He appeared to accelerate into the wall clocking a 9.48 final 25 split, touching .56 seconds ahead of the next fastest qualifier, Lyndon Ferns of Arizona (19.30).
“I wasn’t even sure I had broken the record because when I first looked at the board I thought that the eight was a nine and I was a little disappointed” Bousquet said. “Then I realized that it was an 18 next to my name. I was so excited.”
Duje Draganja and Ben Wildman-Tobriner tied for third-fastest in 19.32. Garrett Weber-Gale, Ryan Wochomurka, and Matt Grevers are seeded fifth through seventh respectively. And Cal’s Rolandas Gimbutis beat Tim Patrick in a swim-off to take the final spot in the finals.
Stanford took the top seed in the 400 medley relay thanks in large measure to Matt McDonald’s buttefly split of 45.55. The Cardinal foursome of Jayme Cramer (46.57), Gary Marshall (52.95), McDonald and Kyle Ransom (43.71) recorded a time of 3:08.78. Florida closely followed in second, clocking 3:09.10, while Northwestern was third in a time of 3:09.70.
The Pac 10 Conference has half of the squads competing in tonight’s final as Arizona qualified fourth, USC fifth, and Cal eighth. Auburn’s fifth place seeding and Michigan’s seventh-place positioning make up tonight’s eight-team field in the finals.