Tigers Extend Lead At NCAA Championships

Austin, Tex.--With two days in the books and one to go, the second-ranked Auburn Tigers are making a serious run at winning the first women's sports national championship in school history.

Maggie Bowen races to victory on Friday night in the 400 individual medley. It was her second victory at this year's NCAA Women's Swimming Championships

With All-American Maggie Bowen swimming another brilliant race by winning the 400 individual medley highlighting Auburn's Friday events, the Tigers have 337 points. SEC rival and defending national champion Georgia is in second place with 270 points and No. 1 ranked Stanford, the pre-meet heavy favorite, moved from fourth to third and has 215 points. Arizona is fourth with 207 and the host school, Texas, is fifth with 202.5.

After day one, Auburn had 153 points, 26 more than Georgia.

David Marsh led the men's team to a pair of national titles in 1997 and 1999, but the women's team has never finished higher than fourth at the nationals.

In the 400 individual medley, Bowen took the lead over SMU sophomore Alenka Kejzar after the opening leg with a split of 56.82 to Kejzar's 56.98. Bowen dropped to second after the backstroke leg, falling behind by .09. However, her strong breaststroke pushed her back into the lead and had a .22 margin going into the freestyle leg. Always known as a strong finisher, Bowen pulled away to win in a blazing time of 4:04.69, the third fastest in the history of the event. Kejzar was a distant second at 4:06.70.

Bowen finished second in the 100 breaststroke with a school record time of 59.94 finishing behind Tara Kirk of Stanford (59.03). The Auburn junior is just the sixth person to break the one minute barrier in that event.

Bowen finished the night with a strong final leg on the 800 freestyle relay event as Auburn finished second behind Arizona and one spot ahead of SEC rival Georgia. Heather Kemp's second leg of the race propelled the Tigers into contention with a split of 1:46.35 and Bowen swam a 1:44.36 to help Auburn move ahead of Georgia and SEC champion Florida to finish in a school record time of 7:06.70.

"We came in with a focus and we just stayed on track," associate head women's coach Kim Brackin said. "There was no faltering. The meet became so much more of a team event instead of individual. Maggie's double was huge for us and her split of 1:44.36 in the 800 free really is a statement of her leadership and her talent, but mostly her leadership."

Demerae Christianson

The Tigers had a solid start on Friday night with a third place in the 200-yard medley relay. Auburn's relay of Jenni Anderson, Laura Swander, Demerae Christianson and Eileen Coparropa swam 1:37.94 to set an Auburn record in the event. Stanford won the race in 1:37.79 to set an American record and California was second in 1:37.88. Auburn's 1998 relay team held the old American record time of 1:38.56.

In the 100 butterfly freshman Margaret Hoelzer took fourth in 52.76 and Christianson was fifth in 53.06. California sophomore Natalie Coughlin won the race with an American record time of 50.01.

Auburn's Heather Kemp

Heather Kemp scored for the Tigers in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:46.54 to take fourth place. She set the school record in the prelims with a time of 1:46.18.

Kirsty Coventry broke her own school record in the 100 backstroke with a 53.67 to finish fourth. Jenni Anderson took eighth place with a time of 54.82. Coughlin of Cal won in an American record time of 49.97.

"I am extremely proud of these girls," Brackin said. "They are representing Auburn like it deserves to be. They are truly living the words of the Auburn Creed and they believe in them."

The final day of preliminaries start at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday at the campus of the University of Texas and the finals begin at 7 p.m.

Top 10
1. Auburn 337

2. Georgia 270

3. Stanford 215

4. Arizona 207

5. Texas 202.5

6. Southern Cal 194.5

7. California 178

8. Florida 154

9. Southern Methodist 124

10. Arizona State 101

* * *

Discuss Auburn sports With Mark Murphy and Jason Caldwell on the Auburn fans only Tiger Ticket Premium Forum. It is free to Tiger Ticket subscribers.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories