White House to Honor Auburn Champions

Auburn, Ala.--Last year the NCAA champion men's swimming and diving team became the first Auburn University team to be honored at the White House.

On Thursday, April 6th both the Auburn men's and women's teams will be in Washington, D.C., to be honored by President George W. Bush.

The men's squad, led by seniors Doug Van Wie, Eric Shanteau, Kurt Cady and George Bovell who never lost a college competition, will be joined by the women's team, which won its fourth NCAA Championship in the past five years.

"It has been a fun ride, to say the least," says Shanteau from Lilburn, Ga., who was team captain for the 2005-2006 squad. "That is the best way to sum it up. There is a lot more to it than just winning a bunch of meets and swimming fast. The four of us are like brothers now.

"We have been through so much with training and hanging out outside the pool," Shanteau adds. "We have become real close friends. That has probably been the most fun part. You definitely can't argue with going through almost four years now of undefeated meets. It has been a fun ride, to say the least."

Eric Shanteau

The men's team, which has won four straight NCAA titles, has six overall crowns under the direction of Coach David Marsh, who also coaches the AU women.

Marsh is the only coach to ever lead a women's and men's swimming team to national titles in the same season, something he has now done three times. "Any invitation to the White House is always of the highest honor," Marsh says. "This year is even more special because our women's team will get to join the men, who had an extraordinary experience last summer in Washington, D.C.

George W. Bush speaks at a ceremony last year while 2004-2005 Auburn captain B.J. Jones (far right) pumps his fist in excitement.

"We look forward to all the activities our student-athletes will get to participate in during their visit, from personally meeting the President of the United States, to the Marine band playing the Auburn fight song," Marsh adds.

"We very appreciative for the opportunity visit the White House. It's a reward to our men and women's teams for their continued dedication to Auburn University, the swimming and diving program and it is a testament to their hard work."

The Auburn men's team celebrates with its championship trophy it won last Saturday night.

Junior Hayley Piersol, who won the 1650 freestyle to start Auburn's comebackvictory on the final night of the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, says it was a group effort that put Auburn over the top.

"It truly was a team victory," she says. "I don't think anybody outside the program can truly understand how much effort is involved in being a championship team. However, we you win a championship with your teammates, you know that it was worth all of the time and effort."

Hayley Piersol has two NCAA team titles in her three seasons at Auburn.

Marsh's Tigers won Auburn's first-ever NCAA title in 1997 with the men's team victory in Minneapolis. They have challenged for the title every season since then and took home championship trophies in 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

The women's team celebrates its 2006 NCAA title won in Athens, Ga., earlier this month.

The first title for the women's team came in 2002 and was followed by championships in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Auburn defeated host Georgia in a competition that came down to the final event.

The men's team had more of a cushion as the Tigers had a 40-point margin over runnerup Arizona in a meet completed last weekend in Atlanta.

"It is very exciting that for the second consecutive year, Auburn will have the honor of visiting the White House," says Jay Jacobs, Auburn's athletic director. "The men's program had a great visit last summer and I know they are looking forward to having the women's team join them for such a special occasion this year. Auburn and Auburn people are very proud of the accomplishments of Coach David Marsh and the men's and women's swimming and diving teams."

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