By Kevin Noth, SwimInfo Special Correspondent
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., March 25. STANFORD was positioned in fourth-place with 120 points after the first day of competition at the 2005 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. The Cardinal, however, appears well prepared to move up the team standings tonight, beginning with the 200 medley relay.
Stanford entered the NCAA’s having posted the fastest 200 medley relay time and will be seeded first for tonight’s finals after winning the last heat of the prelims and clocking a 1:25.51. Stanford and Arizona were neck and neck through three legs of the relay, but Ben Wildman-Tobriner clocked a freestyle split of 18.82, leading Stanford to victory.
The Cardinal sophomore seized control of the anchor leg during the first 25 split and sprung off the turn with nearly a half body length lead which he maintained to the finish. Teammates Hongzhe Sun, Rick Eddy, and Matt McDonald combined with Wildman-Tobriner to form the Cardinal foursome.
Arizona finished in 1:26.14, but is seeded third behind the Cal-Berkeley relay team that won the opening heat in a time of 1:25.97 behind Duje Draganja’s anchor split of 18.66.
Northwestern finished in fourth (1:26.26) and Auburn fifth (1:26.67). USC, Florida and Texas complete tonight’s field of eight.
Eric Shanteau of Auburn will be seeded first in the championship heat of the 400 individual medley. The Tigers junior clocked a 100 breaststroke split of 1:02.45 en route to recording a winning time of 3:44.88. Shanteau, who finished fourth in last year’s 400 IM final, cruised to the No.1 seeding nearly a half-second ahead of Robert Margalis of Georgia (3:45.34) who claimed the second seed after winning the third heat.
Pat Mellors of Virginia clocked the third fastest time in the prelims (3:45.81) and Justin Mortimer of Minnesota followed in fourth (3:46.71). Last year’s runner-up, Ous Mellouli of Southern California, took fifth. Timothy Liebhold (Wisconsin), Chuck Sayao (Michigan) and Brian Hartley (Florida) placed sixth through eighth, respectively.
After four years of dominance by Ian Crocker in the 100 butterfly, this year’s title chase appears to be wide open with only .34 separating the first five seeds in tonight’s final. Jayme Cramer of Stanford recorded a pool record time of 46.20 seconds to claim the No. 1 seeding, while Duje Draganja of California finished only .03 behind, positioning him in second.
Davis Tarwater of Michigan, Daniel Ditoro of Texas and Lyndon Ferns of Arizona all finished within .10 of each other, taking third through fifth, respectively. Matt McDonald (Stanford), Daniel Rohleder (Texas) and Fred Bousquet (Auburn) round out the top eight.
The Pac 10 Conference has half of the finalists in the 200 freestyle as Arizona and Stanford both have two representatives in tonight’s championship heat. Arizona junior Simon Burnett set a pool record in his preliminary heat, finishing in a time of 1:33.75, securing the top seed. Fellow Wildcat junior Tyler DeBerry is seeded sixth after the prelims. Stanford’s Andy Grant took third and teammate Shaun Phillips placed seventh.
Auburn’s George Bovell, last year’s bronze medalist in the event, captured the second seed touching out in 1:34.29, while Peter Vanderkaay, another of last year’s finalists, claimed the fifth position. Adam Sioui of Florida completes the field of eight.
Stanford’s Gary Marshall appears poised to capture the 100 breaststroke title. Marshall tied for fourth in last year’s event, but entered with the top qualifying time by nearly .40 seconds. The Cardinal senior clocked a time of 53.03 seconds in prelims, taking the top seed for tonight’s final. Marshall was .40 ahead of Dave Rollins' second-place positioning (53.43).
Henrique Barbosa (Cal-Berkeley) placed third, Mihaly Flaskay (USC) took fourth and Mike Alexandrov (Northwestern) finished fifth. Vladislav Polyakov (Alabama), Vanja Rogulj (Virginia) and Scott Usher (Wyoming) complete the finals field.
But the 100 breaststroke field may be most interesting for what it lacks. The championship and consolation groupings do not have an Auburn Tiger among them. Auburn has scored in 67 straight NCAA Championship events, dating to 2002. The last time the Tigers failed to score a point in an NCAA Championship event was the 400 medley relay three years ago.
Ryan Lochte of Florida entered the NCAA championships boasting the fastest qualifying time in the 100 backstroke by .73. Lochte cruised to victory in the event’s final preliminary heat, touching the wall in 46.37 seconds. The Gator junior, however, will be seeded second during the finals after being clipped by Northwestern’s Matt Grevers who clocked 46.01 seconds, taking the top position.
Stanford again qualified two for the finals in an event with Hongzhe Sun and Jayme Cramer taking the third and fifth seeds in the 100 backstroke, respectively. Auburn counters with its own pair of finalists, Doug Van Wie in fourth and Chad Barlow in seventh. Tyler Deberry (Arizona) and Adam Sioui (Florida) complete the eight-man championship field.
Stanford appears to have positioned itself as Auburn’s closest challenger by qualifying seven individuals in tonight’s finals. Auburn has sent five individuals to the championship round, while Arizona and Cal-Berkeley counter with four apiece.