AU National Champions Honored At White House

Washington, D.C.--For the first time in Auburn University history, a national championship athletic team from the university was honored at ceremonies at the White House.

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush honored the Auburn men's swimming team, which won the NCAA Championship each of the last three seasons.

Auburn coach David Marsh says the trip for his team will be a special memory.

President George W. Bush, in the middle with a blue tie, is surrounded by the Auburn swim team for a group photo. "It was a really great experience," says Marsh. "Except for it being hot at the ceremony, it couldn't have been better. We received VIP treatment from Congressman Mike Rogers and his staff and got to tour the congressional chambers and see a lot of what was happening behind the scenes."

Marsh says one of the highlights for the Auburn swimmers came when the president walked out of the White House for the ceremony on the south lawn and shouted "War Eagle" to the Tigers, who responded with a "War Eagle" to the president. "That set the tone of a great day," Marsh says.

At the formal ceremony, which included other college national championship teams, Bush thanked the Tigers for their gift of a racing swimsuit and posed for photos with the team. "Auburn is here as three-peat champions," the president said. "Congratulations. We are glad you are here. Thank you for the Speedo (swimsuit). However I am not going to wear it, at least not in public."

The Tigers also gave Bush an Auburn jacket with his name on it and a framed picture of an eagle flying in front of an American flag as well as a photo of the 2005 national champions celebrating.

"This is a huge honor for our team," says team captain B.J. Jones. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. It was a product of a lot of hard work, coaching expertise and recruiting. It was a nice reward to meet the leader of the free world and it was very inspiring."

B.J. Jones (right) reacts as the president talks about the Auburn swimming team.

Jones, who was chosen to present the team gifts to Bush, got to talk to the president prior to the ceremony. "I was pretty floored to be able to make contact with him and I thanked him for allowing us to come," Jones says. "It was cool to shoot the breeze with the President and it is something I will never forget."

Georgia and UCLA each had three teams at the White House. For Georgia, the women's swimming team, men's golf team and women's gymnastics teams were honored while UCLA had its men's and women's water polo teams plus men's tennis team honored. Other teams at the ceremony included Duke (women's golf), Oklahoma (men's gymnastics), Northwestern (women's lacrosse), Johns Hopkins (men's lacrosse), Minnesota (women's ice hockey), Michigan (women's softball), Stanford (women's tennis) and Pepperdine (men's volleyball).

The Tigers met in Atlanta and flew to Washington, D.C., as a group on Monday and are scheduled to return on Tuesday night.

"It was an honor having our team here," says Marsh, who notes that Bush spent several minutes with the Tigers despite having a very busy schedule this week, something the coach pointed out to his swimmers. "It was a unique and humbling experience. It was most impressive to see the genuine warmth of the president as he greeted the team."

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