AU vs. Arizona Showdown at NCAA Final Day

Auburn is in second place going into the final day of competition at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.

Atlanta, Ga.--Arizona reeled in Auburn on day two of the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, setting the stage for a dramatic finish on Saturday as the Tigers go for their fourth straight national title.

The Cal team that was expected to challenge for the championship is in sixth place with 182.5 points followed by Southern Cal at 157, Northwestern at 133.5, Michigan at 132 and Georgia is 10th with 120 points.

Arizona goes into day three with 336.5 points to 331.5 for the Tigers. The Wildcats moved back ahead in the final event of Friday night by winning the 800 freestyle relay while Auburn finished sixth.

Stanford is third with 331.5 points, Texas is fourth with 220 and Florida is fifth at 203. However, the event looks to be a two-team showdown matching the Tigers and Wildcats.

Auburn led after day one with 178.5 points to 136.5 for Arizona.

"Arizona really had a magical night," Auburn head coach David Marsh said. "They were on fire tonight. This is two weeks in a row now that they have great swims through the first two days. It is going to be kind of a knock down, drag out, tomorrow. Arizona's strength is their quality and our strength is our depth. It is reminiscent of last week (at NCAA women's championships) and I am just hoping the end result is the same."

Auburn coach David Marsh shouts during a race on Friday night.

Auburn opened the Friday night finals competition with a second place in the 200-yard medley relay. Arizona won the event with a time of 1:23.88 to Auburn's 1:25:08. Doug Van Wie, James Wike, Alexei Puninski and Matt Targett swam for the Tigers.

In the second event of the evening, senior Eric Shanteau took third place in the 400 individual medley with a time of 3:46.39. Ryan Lochte of Florida was an easy winner with a time of 3:38.15.

"The best thing about the race is that I kept my spot," Shanteau said. "I wanted to stay third, that was the main goal as far as the time goes. I was about two seconds off my personal best so I wasn't as happy with that. Right now there are bigger things to worry about and that is the team title. I really can't complain with my performance."

Arizona began making its push in event three with a win in the 100 butterfly while Auburn scored with a fifth place finish by Puninski in a time of 46.38. Albert Subirats of Arizona won the event in 46.11. The Wildcats scored a second man in sixth place while AU's second scorer Jakob Andkjaer was 12th.

The Wildcats continued to charge in the 200 freestyle. Auburn's Rory Connell was sixth in a time of 1:34.80 while the Wildcats took first and seventh place. AU got a 10th place finish from George Bovell and 15th from Joey Schneider.

Auburn's lead was narrowed to 269.5 to 268.5 after the 100 breaststroke in which the Tigers did not score and Arizona got 16 points for a third place.

In the 100 backstroke, Auburn's Van Wie finished second with a time of 46.41, just 0.08 off the pace by junior Matt Grevers of Northwestern. However, the Wildcats pulled ahead with third and seventh place finishes while Scott Goodrich got three points for his 14th place finish.

Doug Van Wie reaches for the wall in the 100 backstroke.

"I gave it my all and tried to stay underwater as long as I could," Van Wie said. "It was close at the touch and it was a great race. It is a busy night for me. I have three swims so I am just trying to keep looking forward to the next race and swim fast."

Arizona led 296.5 to 289.5 after the event with the three-meter springboard diving up next. Auburn junior Steve Segerlin came through with a third place finish to score 16 points to put the Tigers back on top as Arizona didn't score in the event.

Auburn's swimmers hope they will have plenty to cheer about on Saturday.

Segerlin's score of 377.65 trailed Chris Colwill of Georgia who won with 460.95 and Joona Puhakka of Arizona State who finished at 416.20.

"Anytime you score over 400 points we are very pleased with that result," Auburn diving coach Jeff Shaffer said. "Chris (Colwill) was outstanding and Joona [Puhakka] was solid and had some beautiful dives. I can't be more proud of Steve and his efforts. He could have been a little sharper on his third and fourth dive entries. It is a touch situation for him, he is just so in to the team race that he expends a lot of energy on that and we need for him to sharpen up for tower tomorrow."

Segerlin also finished third in the event last year. His score was 2 1/2 points off the Auburn record which he owns. Segerlin can score big points for the Tigers on Saturday. Last season he was the runnerup in the platform to teammate Matt Bricker. Auburn has won the platform diving in the past three NCAA meets.

The final event of the night, the 800 freestyle relay was contested in three heats. Auburn won the second heat in a time of 6:21.90, but heat three was faster and the Tigers placed sixth in the event. Arizona won in 6:16.67, Michigan was next in 6:18.11 followed by Texas (6:19.61), Florida (6:21.69) and Stanford (6:21.71). The Wildcats scored 40 points in the event to regain the lead as the relay of Van Wie, Andkjaer, Connell and Bovell scored 26 for the Tigers.

Bovell earned an All-American award for the 23rd time. The senior broke the school record of 22 held by Rowdy Gaines and Brock Newman.

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