AU Runnerup At NCAA Championship

Senior stars Kirsty Coventry and Margaret Hoelzer came through with outstanding performances at their final college competition.

West LaFayette, Ind.--Auburn's streak of three straight NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championship meet titles was ended on Saturday night.

Georgia, which jumped out to a big first day lead, kept the pressure on and won easily. The Lady Bulldogs scored 609.5 points. Auburn was second with 492, Arizona took third at 440, Florida was fourth with 355 and Stanford took fifth with 355 points.

The Tigers couldn't overcome UGA despite strong performances from seniors Kirsty Coventry and Margaret Hoelzer. Coventry was the top individual scorer at the three-day competition with 60 points. Hoelzer scored 54 points to tie for fourth.

Coventry won the 200-yard backstroke with the second-fastest time in history as she defended her title in the event and won here fifth individual title. Her time of 1:50.54 is second to the 1:49.52 that former Cal standout Natalie Coughlin's posted in 2002.

Coventry's sweep of the two individual medley races and her win in the 200 backstroke made her the first woman in NCAA history to win those three titles at the same championships. She also became just the fourth woman in championship history to sweep the individual medley races and win another title and the first since Kristine Quance of Southern Cal did it in 1996.

Kirsty Coventry hugs teammate Margaret Hoelzer as the seniors finished first and second in the 200 backstroke on Saturday night.

Hoelzer posted a career-best time of 1:52.14 in finishing second in the 200 backstroke in her final individual collegiate swim. Sophomore Jeri Moss also swam in the championship finals, stopping the clock at 1:56.80. Junior Erin Volcan finished third in the consolation finals, 11th overall, in a time of 1:56.48.

"It wasn't a perfect meet by any means but a very good meet," Auburn coach David Marsh said. "In a lot of years a very good meet wins the meet, but this year Georgia had and outstanding meet and an incredible team.

"In judging how we swam overall, I would say that we had a very good meet," Marsh added. "I am particularly proud of our senior class and even more proud of Kirsty Coventry and Margaret Hoelzer. They have been certainly among the best athletes in the history of the sport of swimming or any sport at Auburn and even in the SEC. I think they went out with a lot of class with three championships in four years and winning the conference championship this year."

Auburn's finest relay performance of the meet came in the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. Junior Jana Kolukanova led off for the Tigers with a 48.87, placing the Tigers 85-hundredths of a second behind leader Georgia.

Hoelzer took the duties in the second leg, clocking a 48.45 to narrow the deficit to just 22-hundredths of a second before freshman Emily Kukors made it an even closer race after the third leg, blasting a 48.56, the fastest third-leg split of the event.

Coventry, trying to ruin Georgia's perfect relay championships, went 48.06 but could not hold-off UGA's fast-closing anchor Amanda Weir as the Tigers touched in 3:13.94, narrowly missing the school record and the title as Weir gave the Bulldogs a final time of 3:13.56.

In the night's first event, sophomore Hayley Peirsol moved up 15 places from her finish last year, chasing down Georgia's Laura Conway over the last three-quarters of the 1650 free to finish second with a time of 15:52.48. Teammate and classmate Adrienne Binder had a strong back-half as well, finishing fifth with a time of 16:01.93. SMU junior Flavia Rigamonti won the event for the third time in her career with a time of 15:46.84.

Junior Jana Kolukanova raced to a third-place finish in the 100 freestyle in personal-best a time of 48.71, the first time she has swum in the championship finals of that event. Her time represents the third-fastest time in school history, trailing only Becky Short's 48.53 from the 2003 NCAA Championships and Eileen Coparropa's 48.57 from the 2004 SEC Championships.

Sophomore Tawnie Bethune won the consolation finals of the 200 fly as the Huntsville, Ala., native went 1:56.35. She was joined in the race by freshman Kristen Hastrup, who finished 11th with a time of 1:58.22.

Swimming in the consolation finals of the 100 free was Kukors (49.92) and Kara Denby (49.57), who finished 11th and 12th, respectively.

Sophomore Lynnsey Segraves became Auburn's first All-American on the platform since Lizzy Flint in 1998 when the Logansport, Ind., native finished 16th with a score of 371.15.

"I think the leadership that the senior class showed at this meet was outstanding, and not just in the pool but also getting us together in the team meeting and keeping the team focused," AU Co-Head Women's Coach Kim Brackin said. "It would have been very easy for this team to settle in but I think the seniors inspired the underclassmen and made it easy for the underclassmen to really step it up."

Auburn's 492 points marked the third-highest total in school history, surpassing the 474 points that Auburn scored in winning the program's first title in 2002. The 492 points was also the most points for a runner-up since 1992 when Texas scored 651 points in finishing second to Stanford's 735.5.

With its victory, Georgia wins its fourth title overall, snapping Auburn's three-year reign at the top. The runner-up finish marked Auburn's sixth top-five appearance in the last six years.

Along with Coventry's 60 points, other Tigers in the top-20 in scoring were Hoelzer in a tie for fourth with 54 points and Kukors in a tie for 17th with 33 points.


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