National Champs: AU Swimmers Win The Big One

Austin, Tex.--Riding the wave of momentum built from strong performances on Thursday and Friday, the Auburn women's swimming team assured itself of a national title with strong performances in Saturday's preliminaries and then coasted in with an historic national title on Saturday night.

Breaking 15 school records in the process, this group of Tigers became the first women's sports team in Auburn history to be crowned national champions. Auburn opened the final night of competition with a 67-point lead over conference rival and defending national champion Georgia. The Tigers extended the margin to 88 points and finished the night with 440 points to Georgia's 386.

Swimmers and coaches celebrate Auburn's victory at the University of Texas pool following the fastest meet in NCAA history.

Pre-race meet favorite Stanford, which was ranked number one in the final regular season poll, swam well but couldn't overtime its SEC rivals and finished third with 301 points. Southern Cal (300.5) was fourth and Arizona fifth with 291.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Texas (267.5), Florida (249), Calfornia (245), SMU (178) and Arizona State (156).

Coach David Marsh

David Marsh, who was named NCAA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year for a second consecutive season, said he sensed he had a special team back in November. "This group was doing things in training that no team I have coached has ever done," he said. "That is when I knew they had a chance to win it all."

Marsh, who is Auburn's most successful coach, added, "All 11 swimmers contributed in the individual events and we scored a lot of points in the relays by finishing no lower than third in any event. Those two factors were really important."

Marsh said the meet was particularly satisfying to him as a coach because the team swam so well from top to bottom. "I would have been happy with a fifth place finish if that is what it would have been with everyone on our team performing like they did in this meet. It was a pleasure to watch."

David Marsh (center in tie) and Kim Brackin (in blue next to Marsh) are surrounded by the NCAA champion Tigers.

Associate women's head coach Kim Brackin agreed and said that the team's times, training and performances at the SEC Championships gave the Tigers real hope that they could knock off No. 1 ranked Stanford and a strong overall field of swimmers in what was the fastest NCAA Women's Swimming Championships ever.

A year earlier, Auburn led the competition by two points going into the final day before slipping to fourth place because of a lack of quality depth in the events contested on the last day of competition. That wasn't the case this season and it enabled Marsh to earn his third swimming national crown to go with ones won by the men's team in 1997 and 1999.

Junior Maggie Bowen led the Auburn effort by setting two American records as she took the individual titles in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley relays. She also finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke and she swam strong legs on the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams that took second place and the 400 medley relay that finished third.

Sophomore Becky Short

In the final event of the meet on Saturday night, Becky Short, Eileen Coparropa, Kirsty Coventry and Bowen swam a time of 3:13.88 to finish second in the 400 freestyle relay. They broke the school record by two seconds and Georgia won the event in an American record time of 3:13.71. The Tigers then celebrated their title by jumping in the pool along with the coaching staff.

Sophomore Eileen Coparropa

The Tigers won the meet with 11 swimmers and each scored points at the meet that featured two individual titles and 10 top three finishes. Marsh won his fifth National Coach of the Year Award, which include men's honors in 1994, 1997 and 1999. Bowen was second in the individual high points scored with 57 and Margaret Hoelzer, a freshman from Huntsville, Ala., tied for 10th with 44 points.

Junior Maggie Bowen won two individual titles for the Tigers.

"I am almost speechless," Brackin said. "When the men won it, it meant so much, but over the past five years I have really watched these women work and grow and support each other. They deserve it so much. I am so happy for them as a group. It means so much for the Auburn community and they have represented the community so well.

"This is really great for the SEC with the top two teams being from our conference. I am just really glad to be able to keep our commitment to the girls that we signed when we told them that we thought we could win it all."

Sophomore Magda Dyszkiewicz

Magda Dyszkiewiez, who Marsh called one of the most pleasant surprises of the meet, started off the final evening by surprising the field with a sixth place finish in the 1650 freestyle with a school-record time of 16:10.48. Dyszkiewicz was seeded out of the top 16 entering the NCAA competition.

Freshman Kirsty Coventry moved up substantially from her seventh place seeding in the 200 backstroke to take third in the finals with a school record time of 1:54.37 while Hoelzer, who broke her own school record in the prelims (1:55.07), finished fourth overall with a personal-best time of 1:54.54. "I am really excited and happy for everyone," Hoelzer said. "I really haven't had a chance yet to enjoy it because I have had to stay focused and not dwell on it, but now it is time to have fun."

Auburn accepts the NCAA Championship hardware after three strong days of swimming. ESPN2 will televise a tape delay of the meet on Thursday at 2 p.m. CST and it will be rebroadcast on April 23 at 2:30 p.m. CST on ESPN.

The Tigers qualified three for the finals of the 100 free as Short finished fourth overall in a time of 48.95, Coparropa took fifth in 49.22 and Heather Kemp took 16th with a time of 50.22.

"The team has really come together for this meet," Kemp said. "I think that our closeness is really one of the main reasons we did so well at this meet. We can really count on each other. I am so excited and ready for this. It has been our main goal all year and now that it is here it is almost unbelievable."

In the 200 breast, sophomore Laura Swander moved up from 15th place to take 13th in a time of 2:13.55 for the Tigers.

Holzer then finished fifth in the 200 butterfly in a school record time of 1:56.74. Finishing eighth in the event was Christianson, who swam to a 1:59.47.

Sophomore Demerae Christianson

"It takes so many things for it all to come together and the overall support of everyone in the program has been amazing," Marsh said during his team's celebration in Austin. "Maggie has really raised the bar for what is possible and has shown that she can compete in any event. Her willingness to defer individual goals for that of the team has been amazing.

"Our freshmen from last year turning into experienced sophomores has pretty much been the difference in this meet. They went from NCAA finishers to NCAA winners and that is a pattern that has been set up for our freshmen this year and for years to come. Having a finalist in every championship final but the 200 breast is a great statement. Our goal has always been to win NCAAs and I am so glad that it has paid off."

Brackin said as soon as the competition began, it was obvious the Tigers were ready. "After the first morning watching our 500 freestylers and our IMers swim lifetime bests, it was like we are here to race. They set the tone for the meet and we swam great. It wasn't like the other teams didn't swim well or we ran away with it. Georgia swam well and Stanford swam well. Everybody had a great race.

"What is amazing is that we won it by winning just the two events that Maggie won. It would have been nice to win more individual events or win some relays. We did it by having all 11 swimmers rack up points. We were up against some extremely talented teams, but it was great to see our team keep its composure and swim so well throughout the meet. That first morning set the tone and we just ran with it from there."

Marsh and his staff won't be celebrating long because they will be taking the men's team to the NCAA Championships Thursday-Saturday in Athens, Ga.

Auburn's Results

200 Freestyle Relay:

2. Short, Bowen, Maxwell, Coparropa 1:28.90*

500 Freestyle:

3. Magda Dyszkiewicz 4:41.98

5. Heather Kemp 4:43.90

200 Indivdual Medley:

1. Maggie Bowen 1:53.91* **

9. Kirsty Coventry 1:59.37

50 Freestyle:

3. Eileen Coparropa 22.39

6. Becky Short 22.52

16. Cassidy Maxwell 23.17

400 Medley Relay:

3. Coventry, Bowen, Christianson, Coparropa 3:34.53

200 Medley Relay:

3. Anderson, Swander, Christianson, Coparropa 1:37.94*

400 Individual Medley: 1. Maggie Bowen 4:04.69*

100 Butterfly:

4. Margaret Hoelzer 52.76

5. Demerae Christianson 53.06

200 Freestyle:

4. Heather Kemp 1:46.54 13. Magda Dyszkiewicz 1:47.58

100 Breaststroke: 2. Maggie Bowen 59.94*

10. Laura Swander 1:01.50

100 Backstroke:

4. Kirsty Coventry 53.67*

8. Jenni Anderson 54.82

800 Freestyle Relay:

2. Dyszkiewicz, Kemp, Maxwell, Bowen 7:06.70*

1650 Freestyle:

6. Magda Dyszkiewicz 16:10.48*

200 Backstroke:

3. Kirsty Coventry 1:54.37*

4. Margaret Hoelzer 1:54.54

100 Freestyle:

4. Becky Short 48.95

5. Eileen Coparropa 49.22

16. Heather Kemp 50.22

200 Breaststroke:

13. Laura Swander 2:13.55

200 Butterfly:

5. Margaret Hoelzer 1:56.74*

8. Demerae Christianson 2:01.44

400 Freestyle Relay:

2. Short, Coparropa, Coventry, Bowen 3:13.88*

*School Record

**American, US Open, NCAA Record

Auburn School Records

200 Free Relay: Short, Bowen, Maxwell, Coparropa1:28.90

200 Individual Medley: Maggie Bowen 1:53.91

400 Medley Relay:

Coventry, Bowen, Christianson, Coparropa 3:34.53

200 Medley Relay:

Anderson, Swan, Christianson, Coparropa 1:37.94

400 Individual Medley: Maggie Bowen 4:04.69

200 Freestyle:

Heather Kemp 1:46.18

100 Breaststroke

Maggie Bowen 59.94

100 Backstroke: Kirsty Coventry 53.67

800 Freestyle Relay:

Dyszkiewicz, Kemp, Maxwell, Bowen 7:06.70

200 Backstroke:

Kirsty Coventry 1:54.37

100 Freestyle:

Becky Short 48.81

200 Butterfly: Margaret Hoelzer 1:56.74

400 Freestyle Relay:

Short, Coparropa, Coventry, Bowen 3:13.88

1650 Freestyle:

Magda Dyszkiewicz 16:10.48

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