BURNABY, B.C. Canada, March 3. OVER a century passed before Seattle University had its first national champion. It took just five years for the school's second to be crowned as, Saturday night, the Seattle University men's swim team-in just its fifth year of existence-won the 2002 NAIA Swim and Dive National
Championships hosted by Simon Fraser University.
The Redhawks finished with 487 points, 43 points ahead of second place finisher California Baptist University (444), and another five ahead of three-time defending champion Simon Fraser (339).
The SU women also made a run for the title, but couldn't catch the host Clan, who won their third
straight championship with 488 points. The Redhawk women captured second place with 435 points, while Cal Baptist finished third with 338 points.
"This is amazing," said head coach Craig Mallery.
"It's sort of hard to articulate what five years of development means when it comes together for a
national championship. The swimmers just soared today."
The men entered the last of the four day meet tonight tied with Cal Baptist in first place, but quickly jumped out to a big lead in the first two events of tonight's finals. Five swimmers placed in the top 10 in the 1500-meter freestyle, led by Sean Seaver's (Jr., Ketchikan, Alaska/Ketchikan HS, Drury University) all-American performance with a second place finish in a time of 16:23.01.
That was followed by a 3-4-5 and eighth place finish in the 200-meter backstroke, led by Jonathan Bartsch (Fr., Billings, Mont./Billings HS), who earned all-American honors with his third place finish in a time of 2:08.65.
"It (the 1500) was a huge event for us. That was really the event that changed the direction of the meet," Mallery said. "We started off with a 40 or 50-point deficit from the lack of diving alone and have just been pounding away every day at the gap."
The Redhawks also received a huge performance from program standout Elliott Kolbe (Sr., Gardenerville, Nev./Douglas HS), who finished his career in style. After swimming to a disappointing third-place finish in the 100-meter breaststroke, Kolbe recorded the men's first ever individual national championship with a victory in the 200-mneter breaststroke, with a time of 2:20.6. From there, Seattle just had to finish its last two races of the night to wrap up the title.
"He swam a great race tonight and the prize was there for him," Mallery said of Kolbe, the 2001 Seattle University Male Athlete of the Year. "It's eluded him for four years and was a great way for him to end his Seattle University swimming career; he has given so much to the program."
With just two events left, the Redhawks captured a 7-8 finish in the 200-meter butterfly-the only event throughout the entire meet in which the SU men didn't have a finisher in the 'A' final heat of the top six
swimmers-and a second place finish in the 400-meter freestyle relay, despite a very conservative effort.
"We just had to swim two clean races (after Kolbe's victory in the 200-breast)," Mallery said. "In the relay, we just had to make sure not to get disqualified and the meet was ours. That's a great position to be in. We made sure to take very conservative starts."
The women entered the day 53-points behind eventual champion Simon Fraser and were unable to cut into the deficit, finishing by the same 53-point margin. Although they were hampered by a disqualification in the 400-meter medley relay on day two and two individual DQs tonight, the points they could have earned would still have left them a fraction shy of SFU.
Megan Ackerman (Jr., Shoreline, Wash./Shoreline HS) got the Redhawks off to a good start with her third all-time all-American award for her third-place
finish in the 1500-meter freestyle in a time of 17:35.41. Teammate Kristin Johansing (Jr., Paso Robles, Calif./Paso Robles HS) captured fourth in
The women also received an all-American performance from Marion Gallagher (Fr., Everett, Wash./Cascade HS), her second of the meet, who captured third in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:47.8. Seattle's Ryann Cooper (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty HS) was not far off pace, finishing fourth with a time of 2:51.39.
The Seattle University men's soccer team captured the NAIA national title in 1997.