By Dan Mihalik
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., March 19. AUBURN needed a great final day to catch the Georgia Bulldogs, who had extended their lead to 93.5 points after the second day of the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.
Kirsty Coventry got the Tigers off to a great start in the third-day preliminaries, setting a new pool record in the 200 backstroke (1:53.54) and qualifying as tonight’s top seed for the finals. Tiger teammates Margaret Hoelzer and Jeri Moss also qualified for the final, finishing second and fifth respectively. Georgia was unable to qualify any swimmers to the championship final.
Two Florida Gators were able to make it into tonight’s championship flight as senior Maureen Farrell finished in fourth, while her sophomore teammate Leah Retrum finished in sixth position.
Also, two Arizona Wildcats will be featured in the final. Jessica Hayes and Marshi Smith are seeded third and seventh, respectively. The only swimmer flying solo for her team is Kelly Harrigan of Rutgers. She is seeded in eighth.
Just when Auburn thought it was safe to come out and play, however, Georgia showed its power during the 100 freestyle. Kara Lynn Joyce and Paige Kearns both qualified for tonight’s finals for the Bulldogs. They are seeded in fourth and sixth place, while Auburn’s lone representative in the final heat will be Jana Kolukanova, who is seeded in a tie for fourth with Joyce.
The top seed for tonight’s final is California freshman Emily Silver. Her time of 48.72 was a new pool record and only .05 faster than Arizona junior Jenna Gresdal. Stanford’s Lacey Boutwell is the third seed, only .01 behind Gresdal.
Two more Wildcats will be swimming as the seventh and eighth seeds. Freshmen Lacey Nymeyer and Courtney Cashion round out the top eight in the 100 freestyle.
The 200 breaststroke was as wide open as any event thus far. There are eight different schools participating in tonight’s finals, but it could end up being a one-woman show.
Caroline Bruce of Stanford is tonight’s top seed in the finals after her pool record performance of 2:09.77 in the prelims this morning. Bruce’s next closest competitor, Elizabeth Tinnon of Texas, is almost two full seconds behind after finishing the prelims with the second fastest time of 2:11.71. Anne Poleska of Alabama is seeded third with a time of 2:11.74.
Two more SEC swimmers will join Poleska in the final as Vipa Bernhardt of Florida and Lindsey Ertter of Georgia are seeded fourth and fifth. Wisconsin’s Amalia Sarnecki is the sixth seed after finishing her heat in third place. Jessica Botzum of Virginia Tech and Agnes Kovacs of Arizona State round out the championship flight of the 200 breaststroke.
In the 200 butterfly prelims this morning, the Pac-10 had the most swimmers qualify for tonight’s final with five. And of course, the SEC had the other three.
The number one seed is Mary DeScenza of Georgia, after swimming a pool record 1:54.83. Seeds two through six all belong to the Pac-10 with each swimmer turning in a time of 1:56.79 or faster. Leading the west coast charge is UCLA junior Kim Vandenberg, who won her heat with a time of 1:56.01. Two more Arizona swimmers are in tonight’s finals as Emily Mason and Whitney Myers qualified third and fifth for the Wildcats. Southern Cal senior Marisa Kozak is seeded fourth and Stanford junior Dana Kirk is seeded sixth.
Two SEC swimmers complete tonight’s final heat in the 200 fly. Katie Yevak of Georgia and Candace Weiman of Florida are seeded seventh and eighth, respectively.
In what could be the most exciting championship final of the three day meet, the Georgia Bulldogs are the top seed for tonight’s final in the 400 freestyle relay. The Bulldogs established a new pool record of 3:17.06 after taking first in their preliminary heat.
However, the quartet from Arizona is only .06 seconds behind as the second seed and gave Georgia all it could handle in the morning prelims. The Bulldogs and the Wildcats, along with fourth seeded Southern Methodist were all in the same heat during the morning session and the three finished within a second of each other.
The third seed is Auburn, which won its qualifying heat with a time of 3:17.71. Texas and Florida are the fifth and sixth seeds, while California and Michigan are seventh and eighth, respectively.