Smiling Champions Celebrate National Titles

Auburn, Ala.--For the second time this spring, Auburn swimmers rallied at Toomer's Corner to celebrate a national championship.

The men's team, back from spring break and a second straight national title won on Long Island, N.Y., celebrated with the women's team, which won its third straight title last month.

Auburn University interim president Dr. Ed Richardson took the podium on Tuesday evening to salute the swimming program as a model for success both athletically and academically.

The men's team, which finished the season undefeated, scored 634 points to easily outdistance runnerup Stanford (377.5) and third place Texas (374). The Tigers did it with dominating performances in individual events and the relays.

Demerae Christian, who helped AU to three straight NCAA women's swimming titles, takes the podium as AU president Ed Richardson (left) watches and listens.

Senior Derek Gibb, who was spectacular for the Tigers in the relays, spoke to the crowd at Toomer's Corner along with Coach David Marsh and women's team All-American Demerae Christian, who is also a senior. The seniors thanked Auburn fans and officials for their support and introduced their fellow classmates to the crowd.

"It is just amazing that we could come out of here with the national championship our senior year," Gibb told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Pat Calhoun told us last year that it was the best feeling in the world to come out with a national championship his senior year. He was absolutely right. It just feels great."

Coach David Marsh addresses the crowd on Tuesday with Samford Hall in the background.

Marsh says that the senior class is a special one and that Gibb himself deserves that label, too. "He has absolutely made lots of improvement," says Marsh, who recruited Gibb out of Alaska where he was working on a commercial fishing boat. "I'll tell you what is most special about him. He went from being a student who most thought was very marginal to last semester having a 4.0 gpa and was more proud of that than any swimming accomplishment.

All-American Derek Gibb addresses the crowd.

"His paradigm was changing, not only in swimming but in life in his time here at Auburn," Marsh adds. "Instead of being a fisherman in the back of the boat, he will one day own a fleet of boats."

The women won their third consecutive national title at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships in College Station, Tex., and the men's team took its fourth overall title and second national crown in dominating style.

"I had no clue we would break the scoring record and be the best team ever in the country," Gibb says. "It has just been an amazing ride." Gibb opened and closed the championships in style, swimming on 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams that blew away world record times.

Toomer's Corner was rolled as part of the championship celebration.

Gibb says the improvement he has made since coming to Auburn as a lightly regarded swimmer has been gratifying. "It was a phenomenal difference," he says. "I came in here a nobody and they are calling me the best relay swimmer ever. I don't think so, but everybody else does. I will say I improved a lot."

The Auburn swimmers were also honored at Tuesday night's baseball game at Plainsman Park and will be honored at Jordan-Hare Stadium at a football game this fall.


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