Shock And Awe: AU Dominates Fastest NCAA Swim Meet

The Tigers started with a world record swim and finished with another one three days later as they cruised to victory at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.

East Meadow, N.Y.--Auburn led from start to finish as the Tigers defended their NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championship with a dominating three-day performance.

The Tigers finished their season undefeated and won the fourth men's national swimming championship in school history. Last week the Auburn women's team won its third straight national title.

Auburn scored more points than any team in NCAA Championship history and the victory margin (256.5) is the second largest at the NCAA meet. It was just the third time in history a team has scored 600 points. Auburn scored 609.5 last year and Stanford scored 632 in 1992.

"True to form, the year started off with a team concept of coming off of losing seven seniors last year and finding a new team identity," said David Marsh, who was named NCAA Coach of the Year. It was the fifth time Marsh has been named men's national coach of the year and he has won the honor three times as NCAA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year.

One of the highlights of the final night of competition on Saturday was an outstanding performance on the diving platform as Caesar Garcia, a senior, defended his title in the event with a score of 635.05. His teammate, freshman Steve Sergerlin, was second with a score of 574.80. The Tigers picked up more points as junior Matt Bricker took seventh place with a score of 484.85.

Caesar Garcia won the platform diving title on Saturday night, defending his title with a lopsided victory.

Garcia became the first athlete in Auburn history to be named NCAA Diver of the Year.

"I can't say enough about these guys," Shaffer said. "They looked great tonight. It was our goal to have all three final on platform and they did it. I am very proud to have these three individuals representing Auburn."

Garcia's score of 635.05 is his highest in his NCAA career and he became the first person to repeat as champion on the platform in back to back years. Last season Garcia scored 575.80 points. Bricker, Garcia and Segerlin became the first three divers to score at the same national championship meet in Auburn history. The Auburn divers scored 93 points in three events, which is an AU record. AU's diving coach, Shaffer, won his first NCAA Diving Coach of the Year award.

The diving was the next to last event and the finale was spectacular, too, as George Bovell (47.06), Ryan Wochomurka (47.16), Derek Gibb (47.51) and Fred Bouquet (47.12) crushed the old world record of 3:14.84 by racing to victory in 3:08.85 to win the 400 freestyle relay.

Auburn's swimmers and coaches take their traditional national championship plunge into the pool to celebrate what is now their fourth men's national title.

Starting off the night in the 1500-meter freestyle in his first NCAA appearance was junior Nate Knopf, who finished eighth at 15:07.83, marking the first time he has scored in the NCAA Championships. Knopf's time of 15:07.83 is the most impressive performance of his career.

In the 200 backstroke, senior Bryce Hunt also gave the performance of his career as he finished a personal-best of third at 1:53.15 in the championship finals. Rounding out scoring in the 200 back were sophomore Doug Van Wie in 10th (1:55.57) and junior Chad Barlow, who finished his night tying for 12th at 1:56.36.

"Last year was great but I wanted this one even more," Hunt said. "All year long us seniors tried to lead by example."

Senior Mark Gangloff held his position from the morning prelims as he finished fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke in a time of 2:09.77. In consolation finals, Eric Shanteau swam to a 2:11.44 and tied for 13th, his best finish ever in the NCAA meet in that event.

Auburn's only swimmer in the 200-meter butterfly, Jeremy Knowles, swam to a 10th place finish in the consolation finals, moving up a spot from his morning swim with a time of 1:57.01.

Those four guys are always at their best at the relays and that has characterized my favorite Auburn swimmers, going back to Rowdy (Gaines), Yoav (Bruck) and Nick Shackell," Marsh said. "All four of those guys are just like that," Marsh said.

Auburn's "Four Horsemen," All-Americans oBovell, Bousquet, Gibb and Wochomurka, combined for 340 points, which was more than any other team at the meet other than Stanford and Texas.

"The ‘Four Horsemen' are just the best guys," Gibb said. "When you got guys like Fred and George, it just gets everyone going and we weren't going to look back the rest of the way."

With Garcia's title on the platform and the 400-meter relay victory, the Tigers won six titles in 2004, giving them 37 all-time. The Tigers have scored in 57 consecutive events, which dates back to the 2002 Championships, when the team scored in the last 15 events and has gone perfect in 2003 and 2004.

The Auburn swimming team celebrates at the NCAA Championship Trophy presentation on Saturday night.

Marsh's seven NCAA titles in men's and women's swimming ranks him in a tie for fifth with Skip Kenney of Stanford for the most titles of any NCAA Division I swim coach. The seventh title also gives Marsh more NCAA titles than any coach in the history of the state of Alabama, surpassing former Alabama football coach Bear Bryant's six.

The meet, considered the fastest in history, saw seven world records, eight American records, 15 U.S. Open records and eight NCAA records broken.

Auburn qualified the maximum number of competitors for the meet and 15 of AU's 19 team members scored and earned All-America honors a total of 58 times.

With the women's team winning three straight national titles and the men two-in-a-row, Auburn joins Texas (1990, 1991) and Stanford (`992, 1993, 1994) as the only colleges to have won men's and women's national swimming titles in consecutive seasons.

Final Team Standings

1. Auburn 634

2. Stanford 377.5

3. Texas 374

4. Arizona 322

5. Michigan 271

6. Florida 266

7. Cal 255.5

8. Tennessee 140

9. Minnesota 130

10. Georgia 112.5



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