By John Lohn
CRANBURY, N.J., March 12. THIS past weekend marked the start of an amazing stretch for the sport. Following the NCAA Division I Women's Championships and NCAA Division III Women's Champs, this weekend will featured the NCAA Division I Men's Champs, the NCAA Division II Championships and the NCAA Division III Men's Champs. And, of course, the World Championships are around the corner. Here's a look at the weekend highlights.
**Although Auburn entered the final night of the competition trailing Arizona by 32 points, there was little doubt whether the Tigers would overcome the deficit. After all, a sensational preliminary session set the stage for a second consecutive come-from-behind title. At night, Auburn simply followed the blueprint it had mapped out.
On his way to the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, coach David Marsh collected the 11th NCAA crown of his coaching career, the fifth in command of the Auburn women. If he can lead the Tigers to the male championship this weekend, he'll tie Richard Quick, soon to become his successor, for most titles in history. But, regardless of whether Auburn wins the men's championship, Marsh is going out on top.
Through the years, Marsh's athletes have peaked at the right time, a credit to his preparedness and eye-on-the-prize mentality. With the exception of a disqualification during prelims, Auburn advanced each of its day-three swimmers to either the championship or consolation finals. Now, that's answering the bell in the biggest of ways.
**We'll be sure to see her in the years ahead, as she continues to build her international profile, but it's unfortunate we've seen the last of Kara Lynn Joyce as a Georgia Bulldog. In her four years, Joyce won 18 NCAA championship, including nine of the individual variety. This weekend, she completed career sweeps of the 50 and 100 freestyle events, a first by an NCAA woman.
If the Bulldogs were in need of a spark, there was no better person than Joyce to get the team rolling in the right direction. Despite facing challenge after challenge, Joyce rose to occasion with scorching-hot times. There's always an up-and-comer out there who will do special things, but for now, Joyce is the greatest sprinter in NCAA history.
**Over the weekend, Dana Vollmer proved that the right atmosphere is truly important. Unable to find a comfort zone during her freshman year at the University of Florida, Vollmer transferred to California for her sophomore campaign. From the results, it is quite clear that Vollmer, a 2004 Olympian, found the change of scenery to her liking.
Aside from winning the 100 butterfly, Vollmer contributed to three American-record setting relays by the Bears. Cal set national standards in the 400 medley relay and 400 and 800 freestyle relays, with Vollmer leading the way. Now, look for Vollmer to make some noise in the 200 freestyle at the World Champs in Melbourne, where she's also expected to aid the American 800 free relay.
**In the Division III ranks over the weekend, the Kenyon College women claimed their 21st championship in the past 26 years. Kenyon ended a two-year championship hiatus by scoring 498 points, plenty more than the 290 tallied by second-place Amherst. What's amazing is the men's squad can make it 28 straight NCAA championships with a triumph this weekend. That's the definition of dynasty.