CHAPEL HILL, N.C., November 21. FASTER than a speeding bullet?
Well, North Carolina senior Christy Watkins and Tennessee junior Renato Gueraldi weren't quite that fast here this evening at Koury Natatorium during the opening the Nike Cup…but they were awfully close!
Watkins, defending Atlantic Coast Conference champ who went a pr 22.45 to win last season, almost equaled her career-best here with a meet record 22.49, far and away the nation's fastest time thus far this season. Gueraldi also went a national No. 1 19.57.
The women's national leader prior to this evening was Georgia's defending NCAA champ/American-NCAA record-holder, Maritza Correia, who went a not too shabby 22.62 against Cal at The Dawg Pound three weeks ago.
The ACC record is 22.40 by another North Carolinian, Richelle DePold, from the 1998 NCAAs at Minneapolis. She's now married to former North Carolina State NCAA 50 free champ David Fox, whose 19.14 that won in '93 at Indianapolis broke the then record of 19.15 by Cal's Matt Biondi from six years earlier.
Fox also won Olympic gold at Atlanta as part of the United States' 400 free relay team.
Gueraldi's time is not only No. 1 nationally but also the only sub 20.0 so far this young season, and a pr for the Brazilian national team member too. His old pr was 19.63 that won the Southeastern Conference title last season at Arkansas — his first individual league crown..
The Vol record is 19.45 by Puerto Rican Olympian Ricardo Busquets, who twice went that time — first at SECs in Knoxville in February of '96, then a month later at NCAAs in Austin.
So Gueraldi's knocking on the record book door and perhaps he may even get the SEC standard of 19.16 by Auburn 's Australian Olympian, Brett Hawke, before his career is completed.
Host UNC heads the field on the women's side with 288 points, followed by Michigan (157) and Virginia Tech (132.5).
On the men's side, Coach John Trembley's Vols lead with 209 but UNC is in hot-pursuit (201) and then comes Virginia Tech (176).
(The meet's format is such that onl the Top 4 qualifiers swim in the "A" final, with eight in the "B" and "C" finals — something for the NCAA to consider.)
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Coach Frank Comfort's Lady Tar Heels got the proceedings underway with a 1:33.73-1:34.81 win in the 200 free relay, Watkins anchoring in a quick 22.55.
UNC got stellar performances from several women aside from Watkins, including juniors Kelly Weeks and Whitney Smith, who one-twoed the 500 free with swims of 4:48.45-4:48.65, respectively. Those time move the duo into seventh and eighth on the current Best Times national-ranking list.
East Carolina's Pirates hoisted their name on the board when Diane Packer splashed to gold in the 200 IM (2:03.02) with the 'Heels' Jana Turner (2:03.34) second. In the 50, after Watkins came Kansas' Amy Gruber (pr 22.96). That time brings back memories of the "Kansas Comet," Tammy Thomas, who won NCAAs 19 years ago at Nebraska in then collegiate records of 22.17-48.40.
Thomas is the Jayhawks' only NCAA champion and their sole NCAA woman's finalist, although if Gruber keeps dropping that may change.
Michigan senior Tealin Kelemen won the 1-meter diving competition (532.85) and her "fellow" Wolverines concluded the women's action by racing to a meet-record in the 400 medley relay (3:40.57) with UNC runner-up (3:45.78).
Michigan senior Erin Abbey had the fastest leadoff split with her 55.40 while UNC's Turner was No. 2 (56.14).
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Gueraldi's 19.57 50 free was the meet's outstanding men's time, but the 500 free saw a spirited battle between Vol freshman Casey Dauw — a former prep All-America for St. Charles High in Illinois — and UNC junior Yuri Suguiyama. Dauw won in a pr 4:22.43, some four seconds faster than he ever swam in high school. His Tar Heel foe went a solid 4:22.47 with both swims making the NCAA "B" cut and ranking among the fastest nationally.
Vol Andrew Bree, a multi-talented individual medleyist
/breaststroker who competes internationally for Northern Ireland and was a Commonwealth Games medalist last summer in Manchester, won the 200 medley in 1:49.94.
His pr — 1:47.28 from last year's NCAAs — ranks him No. 2 all-time on the Vol list behind Shawn McNew's 1:46.78. He's an excellent 200 breaststroker too, having a pr of 1:56.56 from last spring's NCAA finals. He ranks No. 2 on the all-time Vol list here as well, only trailing Jeremy Linn, who holds the American/NCAA record in the 100 breast.
(Linn was 100 silver medalist at the Atlanta Olympics and swam on the gold medal-winning 400 medley relay.)
Gueraldi then made it three for three for Tennessee with his 50 free win. His prelim time (19.69) was also considerably faster than fellow Brazilian and fellow SECer Carlos Jayme (Florida), who was the leader at 20.11.
When these two tangle at SECs in late February at Auburn, the NCAA and U.S. Open record (19.05, jointly held by former UCLA star Tom Jager and current Cal collegiate champ/Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin) could be in jeopardy. Gueraldi already has a pair of NCAA titles as the Vols won both the 200 medley and 400 free at College Station a year ago.
Not since the days of ex-Vol sprint star John Edgar some three decades ago has a Tennessee swimmer won the 50 free but Trembley — who was a teammate of Edgar's — may be thinking that could well change come the final Thursday of next March in Austin, site of the NCAA Division 1 Championships.
(Andy Coan is the last Vol to win the 100 and that was well over 20 years ago.)
Louisiana State opened the meet with a win in the 200 free relay and Virginia Tech won the 400 medley (3:17.05 to Tennessee's 3:17.68). Gueraldi anchored in 43.32. His 100 pr is a 43.19.
– Bill Bell
NIKECUP TEAM SCORES
WOMEN'S TEAM SCORES: 1. North Carolina 288; 2. Michigan 157; 3. Virginia Tech 132.5; 4. Kansas 117; 5. LSU 99.5; 6. East Carolina 74; 7. Kentucky 57; 8. NC State 48; 9. Kenyon 42; 10. Syracuse 38.
MEN'S TEAM SCORES: 1. Tennessee 209; 2. North Carolina 201; 3. Virginia Tech 176; 4. LSU 134; 5. Kentucky 99; 6. NC State 76; 7. Syracuse 58; 8. Kenyon 57; 9. East Carolina 43.