Depth, Talent Lead AU to NCAA "Four-Peat"

Auburn took charge on the final day of competition to win its sixth men's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship.

Atlanta, Ga.--Auburn rallied on the final day of the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships to take its fourth straight national title thanks to solid performances from a variety of swimmers.

For Coach David Marsh, it is a sixth men's national title in his 10th season as head coach since returning to his alma mater. Counting the four NCAA women's titles his teams have won, including one a week earlier in Athens, Ga., Auburn's most successful coach has 10 national championships.

On Saturday night at the Georgia Tech Aquatics Center, Auburn overcame Arizona's five-point lead after day two and methodically overpowered the Pac-10 Wildcats on the way to the title.

Auburn moved ahead after the second event of the finals and steadily pulled away for a 480.5 to 440.5 margin over Arizona thanks to superior depth. Stanford, expected to seriously challenge Auburn for the title, was a distant third wih 362.5 points. Texas was fourth at 307 and Florida fifth at 268.5

Auburn's champions celebrate after receiving their trophy.

Cal, another team that was expected to challenge Auburn, finished sixth with 250.5 points. Southern Cal was seventh at 223. The rest of the Top 10 included Michigan (209), Georgia (197) and Northwestern (183.5).

The Tigers clinched the title on the next to last event and junior diver Steven Segerlin did it in style by earning his first individual NCAA title of his college career in the 10-meter platform diving.

He noted that except for the first of his six dives, he doesn't know if he could have put together a better performance. "It's just a great feeling to finally win an NCAA Championship," said Segerlin, who was the runnerup last year in the platform behind teammate Matt Bricker.

His diving coach, Jeff Shaffer, was thrilled with what he saw. "There were a few entries he could have cleaned up, but in the three years I have coached him that was by far the best list of dives he has put together in a competitive situation."

Steve Segerlin dives on Saturday night for the Tigers. AU has finished fourth in the 10-meter platform competition for four straight years.

"He didn't really make any mistakes tonight," Shaffer added. "Before the contest we talked about being focused and enjoying the moment. That is what the NCAA Championship is all about.

"He is such a team player, at times I had to hold him down when he was cheering for the swimmers. When you give you receive and you could see the swimmers here supporting him in the finals. I think that is really part of what helped him step up and do a great job this evening."

Head coach Marsh was thrilled with what he saw from the junior. "Steven is the most clutch diver in school history and I couldn't be more pleased with his performance."

Segerlin scored 469.30 points while Chris Colwill of Georgia, who won both springboard events, was second at 443.95.

"That by far was my best score," Segerlin said. "It was so much fun. I've been struggling lately keeping it together in finals on platform. I did a really good job of following Coach's instructions. I just flew by the seat of my pants and let it ride."

For seniors Doug Van Wie, George Bovell, Kurt Cady and Eric Shanteau, they finished four years as Auburn swimmers without losing a single team competition while competing for the Tigers.

"It's a great feeling to be part of a great team like this," Cady said before taking the traditional Auburn victory plunge into the pool after winning a national title.

"After we finished five points behind Arizona after the second day we had one of those serious team meetings before the Saturday preliminaries," Cady said. "Everybody said, we aren't losing for this serious class. This year we got challenged twice. Against Texas we had to go one-three in the relays. At Florida, we had to go one-two to win and we did it both times. After that meeting I knew we were ready to go and we were going to win.

"I walked out of the hotel and there were about 10 or 12 guys in the vans already. They had the radio blaring. They were just screaming "Fight for Your Right" by the Beastie Boys. They were just screaming, laughing and having a good time. Right then, I said, 'Don't worry about being serious. It's over. We're going to win.' After the way we swam in the prelims it was over."

Auburn won men's titles in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005 prior to this years met. The women's championships came in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

John Scott swims the 200-yard butterfly for the Tigers on Saturday.

"We didn't have a great performance, but we swam good and with our depth that was enough to win the championship," said Marsh. "Give Arizona credit. They had a great meet and pushed us."

Senior George Bovell said he was both thrilled and thankful for the victory. "There was an unbelievable amount of pressure on us going into this meet," the Olympic medalist said. "I am very relieved we won this one."

Sixteen Tigers won 49 All-American honors, the fourth highest number awarded in Auburn history. Van Wie earned six All-American honors, the second most of any AU athlete, which ties him with seven other swimmers who earned six All-American awards during a single season.

"It's a tremendous feeling to go out with another championship," Van Wie said. "It's hard to describe how I feel."

The Tigers took the lead with 23 points in the 200-yard backstroke, the second event of the final night at the pool where the 1996 Olympics where held. That put the Tigers ahead by two points. Auburn then scored 43 in the 100-yard freestyle with five competitors.

That stretched the lead to nine points and the Wildcats didn't have enough swimmers qualified to make a final run at the Tigers. Freshman Cesar Cielo was fourth and sophomore Matt Targett seventh in the event. Jakob Andkjaer won the consolation 100 and Bovell was 13th and Bryan Lundquist 14th.

The Tigers scored in every event on Saturday except for the 1,650 freestyle to open the finals competition before a packed house at Georgia Tech.

Arizona coach Frank Busch said, "The kids swam geat. They swam really hard this morning to get us to that spot where we could have the final swims that we had. Auburn just had more bullets."

Van Wie and James Wike finished seventh and eighth in the 200-yard freestyle to rack up more points for the Tigers. Shanteau took eighth place in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Sophomore Rory Connell finished eighth in the 200 butterfly and the Tigers scored two more athletes in the consolation finals. Mark Johnson, a junior, took 12th and John Scott was 15th.

After the butterfly all the Tigers needed was a strong performance by Segerlin. After that happened, the pressure was off for the final relay.

Freshman Jakob Andkjaer, Cielo, Targett and Bovell sawm a time of 2:48.89 to finish second to Arizona's 2:48.39. That only cut six points off of Auburn's lead and set the stage for another victory celebration.

Auburn's Marsh had praise for runnerup Wildcats. "The first thing I've got to say is hats off to Mike, coach of the year, and a great team peformance by Arizona and the rest of the field. Our guys have improved throughout the season and they continued to improve in this meet.

"I am plaesed that that improvement has manifested itself into a win. They deserve this. It's an honor. It's really more of a blessing from God to win this team title for me, personally. I know the guys will enjoy it and embrace it fully."

When asked about winning his ninth and 10th national titles this year, Marsh said, "That is an interesting number."

The meet will be shown on a taped delay basis with coverage by former Tiger All-American Rowdy Gaines at 12:30 p.m. CST on ESPN2 on March 31st.

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