NCAA Championships: Sights and Sounds from the Stands

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Georgia coach Jack Bauerle. Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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By Michael J. Stott.

Day Two prelims at the men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving championships produced loads of fast swimming with Cal qualifying an impressive number of swimmers bent on unseating three-time champ Texas. That said, the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center was also a great venue for people watching.

Without much effort one could easily pinpoint faithful supporters by their garb. Team colors ranged from the burnt orange of Texas to the blue and yellow of Cal and Michigan to everything in between. Cal, as usual took blocks of seats on either side of the competition pool, cheering in tandem and full voice across the natatorium. Wolverine faithful appeared in all manner, message and vintage of blue and maize. Those without obvious alliances donned more mysterious garb. One spectator clad in black and white displayed “Surly’s Darkest Creations. Embrace the Darkness.” Perhaps fittingly the wearer spent all of his time gazing upon the warmup pool.

In this day and time technology reigns supreme among spectators. Phones and PDA’s, even occasional computers, were in use everywhere. But none as egregious as a college commencement I attended recently where a father sat, surrounded by family, watching porn videos (seriously).

In the warmup pool coaches were hard at work, i.e.:

• Jack Bauerle ran pace splits and occasionally checked his phone

• Eddie Reese counseled athletes after a rigorous round of 500 free qualifying swims

Then there were the thinkers – Ted Knapp of Stanford with chin in hand. Matt Kredich (Tennessee), he of Duke, Harvard lineage, patrolled the perimeter mulling concepts beyond normal ken.

The Michigan coaching staff sported identical collared shirts in a hue, which even partisans agreed looked more like faded cornstalks than the maize they have come to know and love.

Checking the hairstyles was a game in itself. There was a lot of thinning hair apparent. South Carolina’s Mark Bernardino passed his hand over his once full mane, and Mike Bottom’s handsome mop was flecked with grey (he was not alone). Above the crowd was the almost perfectly cut and coiffed locks of Dave Durden.

The athletes, almost all of whom were cut and buffed, strutted the tile with a self-assurance of conditioned athletes. Suits were skimpy; some were downright revealing, especially when viewed from the rear. There were cupped shoulders, rippling muscles and bodies to envy and one swimmer with bright pink swim fins. Watching Texas practice medley relay starts was an adventure in education, one that nearly netted a top eight seed for the evening.

In the competition pool the swimming was terribly brisk and open water at a premium. One exception was Longhorn Sam Pomajevich whose first heat 500 free 4:12.46 separated himself from adversaries Jacob Wielinski (Mizzou) and Florida’s Clark Beach by 7.38 and 9.02 respectively.

Summing up the morning session was the ever fluent Bauerle. “We had a little bit of everything,” he hedged, admitting he spent most of the a.m. concentrating on his Dawgs. “But I couldn’t help watching Caeleb (18.11 in the 50 free). When I get to this point I know that we are going to score more points than we were supposed to, so I am fine. We went from last seed in the 800 free relay last night to fifth (6:21 – 6:12.74). And we just dropped 3 ½ seconds in the 400 medley relay (sixth, 3:07.47 – 3:03.20). Gunnar, who had a rough fall with a broken collarbone all fall made it back top eight.

“We’re just sailing,” he quipped.