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By Michael J. Stott.
The NCAA Championships are often a risk/reward proposition. During the final morning in Indianapolis, Arizona State coach Bob Bowman scratched freshman Cameron Craig from the 100 free to leverage his presence on the 400 freestyle relay.
Ever the strategist, Bowman reasoned, “Cameron had swum a lot of events. Obviously we had fully prepared for Pac-12. He was a little bit off his time there and it was critical that our relay get in the top eight here for team scoring. So we felt the tradeoff for him from probably being in the consolation final to scoring two or three points was not worth giving up a relay where we could score 22 points guaranteed.”
At the completion of prelims Sun Devils had qualified eighth in 2:49.64 just .11 ahead of Alabama.
Asked if the result made him a master magician, Bowman responded, “It makes me lucky. I didn’t know it would be quite that fast. It was an amazingly fast prelims.”
As the NCAA meet progressed the Craig education continued.
“Cameron has learned a lot here,” said Bowman. “He’s actually swum very well.”
So well, in fact that he left the meet with four All-American citations. On opening night he led off the 15th-place ASU 800 free relay in 1:32.67. He anchored two more relays: the ninth-place 200 free in 18.98 and the 400 medley in 41.98. His 1:32.46 in his individual 200 free earned him fifth.
“Cameron doesn’t have a lot of experience at the top level and we just felt like giving our guys a chance to do that relay really well would not only help the team scoring but just help them personally,” Bowman said.
On Saturday night after the third leg of the the 400 free relay the Sun Devils were deadlocked with Stanford for seventh place at 2:07.20. A 41.80 final 100 split by Sun Devil senior Richard Bohus pushed Arizona State to sixth place.
“The strategy worked well,” Bowman said, “because we had to be sixth in that relay to get to 14th place by one point (100-99 over South Carolina). And we like it because last year we were 44th, so we moved up 30 spots. I think everybody is happy with it. Cameron did a better time too — his second fastest ever at 42.29.”