Dominating Swimmers Defend Their National Title

The Auburn women's swimming team was not seriously challenged on its way to the NCAA Championship.

Auburn, Ala.--This time it was expected.

A year ago in Austin, Tex., as a darkhorse candidate to win the title, the Auburn Tigers put together nearly a perfect performance to win the school's first ever NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving national championship as well as the first ever national team title by an AU women's squad.

Auburn swimmers accept the national championship trophy on Saturday night.

Saturday night at Auburn's James E. Martin Aquatics Center, only the final margin of Auburn's victory was in doubt. It turned out to be a rather substantial one as the Tigers piled up 536 points on the way to the most dominating performance at the women's nationals since 1993. SEC rival Georgia was a distant second with 373 points, Southern California took third with 284, SMU was fourth with 281 and Florida took fifth with 277.

Rounding out the Top 10, Stanford was sixth with 275.5, Texas scored 220, California 215, Arizona 209 and Arizona State 135.

Coach David Marsh

David Marsh and co-head coach Kim Brackin were named the national coaches of the year as 16 of their 18 swimmers who qualified for the nationals scored points and four were among the Top 10 point producers. Auburn's greatest female swimmer ever, senior Maggie Bowen, led the charge with 57 points, which was second only to Cal star Natalie Coughlin, who was named the meet's top performer. Kirstry Coventry scored 50.5 points for Auburn to be the third high scorer. Margaret Hoelzer with 45 points was ninth and Heather Kemp with 43.5 was 10th.

"This is a great feeling to win it in home in front of our fans, who we really appreciate," said Marsh. In 1998, the only other time that Auburn was host for an NCAA swimming championship meet, the men's team finished as the runnerup. Marsh acknowledged there is a big difference in perception between one and two. "That's America and this is sport," he said with a smile.

Auburn's swimmers cheer on their teammates as Coach Davis Marsh (lower right with hand on head) studies the action.

Bowen said it was her wish all season to finish her college career with her Tigers winning the championship at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center before an excited, standing-room only crowd. "This is incredible," she noted. "To have won for the second year in a row is unbelievable. We won this year with a different team than last year, but I am so proud of this team. It is just awesome. This is a dream come true. I love this pool, the fans, the school."

Marsh said the 2002-2003 team is the most talented group of women's swimmers in Auburn history as well as the most team oriented group he has coached. The combination made the Tigers unbeatable from start to finish. "There could be more individual agendas, but they melded together very well," he said. "A lot of credit goes to the captains--Maggie Bowen and Ashley Rubenstein plus Kim Brackin and the rest of coach staff for keeping them together and focused on the big picture."

Maggie Bowen

The big picture looks promising for the future with Bowen the only Auburn scorer at the NCAA meet who is graduating.

Auburn's point total is the most at the nationals since a dominating Stanford team scored 649.5 in 1993. The Tigers won seven events, including four point-rich relays, during the three days of competition. Bowen won two individual titles and junior Heather Kemp got the other.

The Tigers finished the meet in style with a come-from-behind victory in the 400-yard freestyle relay, much to the delight of the home crowd. That warmed them up for the trophy ceremony that was followed by a plunge in the pool by the swimmers and their coaches. Becky Short, Eileen Coparropa, Kirsty Coventry and Bowen celebrated their victory after swimming a time of 3:14.15.

Eileen Coparropa

Also on the final night of competition, Coventry and Margaret Hoelzer piled up points by finishing two and three in the 200-yard backstroke in times of 1:53.17 and 1:53.18. Freshman Erin Volcan won the consolation finals in a personal best time of 1:56.18.

Becky Short finished second in the 100-yard freestyle with a school record time of 48.53 while teammate Eileen Coparropa took third in 48.99. "Becky had her breakout meet this week," Marsh said. "I am proud of her performance." Maritza Correia set a new American and NCAA record in winning the race in 47.29. However, Cal's Coughlin, the previous record holder, got her record back by swimming 47.00 on the opening leg to the 400 freestyle relay.

Heather Kemp (left) and Margaret Hoelzer (right) both earned All-American status.

The Auburn's men team will travel to Austin, Tex., this week to compete in the nationals that will run Thursday through Saturday. The Tigers are not the favorites in the men's competition, but Marsh said that his team has a shot to win the title if it has a very strong performance.

Records Set At NCAA Championships

American Records:

200-Yard Medley Relay, 1:36.69, Auburn (Jenni Anderson, Laura Swander, Margaret Hoelzer, Becky Short)

100-Yard Freestyle 47.00 Natalie Coughlin, California (opening leg, 400-Yard Free Relay)

NCAA Records:

400-Yard Medley Relay, 3:31.45, Auburn (Kirsty Coventry, Maggie Bowen, Margaret Hoelzer, Becky Short)

200-Yard Medley Relay, 1:36.69, Auburn (Jenni Anderson, Laura Swander, Margaret Hoelzer, Becky Short)

100-Yard Freestyle, 47.00, Natalie Coughlin, California

NCAA Meet Record:

200-Yard Medley Relay, 1:36.69, Auburn (Jenni Anderson, Laura Swander, Margaret Hoelzer, Becky Short)

100-Yard Breaststroke, 58.62, Tara Kirk, Stanford

800-Yard Freestyle Relay, 7:02.72, Auburn (Margaret Hoelzer, Heather Kemp, Kirsty Coventry, Maggie Bowen)

100-Yard Freestyle, 47.00, Natalie Coughlin, California

Final Results

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