Tigers Celebrate Double NCAA Championships

Auburn, Ala.--In what has become an Auburn athletic tradition, members of the university's swimming and diving teams gathered at Toomer's Corner to celebrate being national champions.

This time it was a double ceremony honoring the women's team, which won the ninth NCAA title in Auburn history along with the men's team, which won number 10.

Members of the women's swimming team arrive for the event with the clock tower at Samford Hall in the background.

The women's team earned its fourth overall title with what David Marsh called the most exciting comeback he has ever been associated with in his tenure as Auburn's most successful head coach.

A week later, the men's team won its fourth straight NCAA title and sixth overall championship, sending out the team's four seniors as unbeaten in team competition in their four years on intercollegiate competition.

"This is great and it doesn't get old," said Jay Jacobs, Auburn's athletic director, one of the speakers at Tuesday evening's ceremony. "It just makes you want more and I guess this is how these swimming teams and staff feel after winning 10 national championships. It is a wonderful thing."

Men's team captain Eric Shanteau addresses the crowd. He and fellow seniors Doug Van Wie, George Bovell and Kurt Cady won four national titles.

Women's team captain Erin Volcan speaks with the NCAA Championship trophy to her right.

Jacobs, who plans to accompany both teams that will be honored at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, says he is looking forward to that trip and that he is proud to accompany the swimming teams, who he points to as a model program for intercollegiate athletics.

"What they are doing in the pool is remarkable, to say the least, but what these men and women are doing in balancing swimming and academics and performing at the highest level of both with a 100 percent graduation rate for both teams in phenomenal.

This season is the third time that Marsh's men's and women's teams both brought home NCAA Championships.

"When we send these student-athletes out in the world, once they have earned a degree from Auburn, they will represent us in a first class way," Jacobs added. "I have three young daughters and it is great to know that there are going to be men and women out there like our swimmers and divers who are trying to make our world a better place."

NCAA platform diving champion Steven Segerlin, a junior, was the high point scorer for the Tigers at the 2006 NCAA meet.

Auburn University interim president Dr. Ed Richardson had similar praise for Marsh's women's and men's swimming teams. "There is so much talk today about NCAA sports, changing the rules to try to help the graduation rate, but our swimming and diving teams emulate the highest standards that anyone could have. They have no behavior problems, they are almost unanimous in their graduation rate and, of course, they achieve at such a high level.

"This is four in a row for the men's team," Richardson added. "It makes you feel so good to be a part of a university that not only supports athletics, but pushes academics so strongly at the same time. Coach Marsh and his team have just done everything by the book."

Auburn's cheerleaders were there along with a pep band at Tuesday evening's ceremony.

Auburn mayor Bill Ham spoke at the ceremony, not only to congratulate the swimmers for their national championship, but to thank them for their community service. This weekend the swimmers will be hosts for a benefit to fight cystic fibrosis, a charity they helped raise $150,000 for last year.

"I want to thank all of you for making this a better community to live in," Ham said.

Coach David Marsh talks with Dr. Ed Richardson prior to the ceremony.

Marsh, who has been the coach for all 10 of the national titles, said, "People keep asking how do you do these championships? ‘I say, when you have a great senior class, and you have people willing to learn from those seniors, it happens.'"

The Auburn coach noted that the women's title, which was decided on the final event of the three-day competition in Athens, Ga., was so close that it was a championship meet in which every person's points in each event meant the difference between finishing first or second to host Georgia. "Every swim and every dive mattered," Marsh said.

Toomer's Corner was covered in toilet paper to celebrate the national titles.

In the men's competition, the Tigers led after day one, but trailed after day two. "We had a lull in day two and actually got behind Arizona," Marsh said. "You guys don't know this, but I was actually hoping that Arizona would be ahead of us that second day because I knew they were going to be close.

"I knew when they saw another team on top of them that wouldn't look right and I knew that would emit some extra emotions in the next sessions and, sure enough, like the women did, they came out for the Saturday morning session like gangbusters and just took the competition.

"They just basically took the meet by the throat and said, ‘Un-uh, it's Auburn's, not yours,'" Marsh added. "It was a fascinating event."

The women's team poses for photos. Senior members of the team won three NCAA titles and three SEC titles.

The men's team, which has won 10 straight SEC Championships, didn't lose a dual meet, a conference meet or a NCAA Championship event during the past four seasons.

After rolling Toomer's Corner, the next event for the swimmers is to visit President George W. Bush at the White House on Thursday.

Retired dean of students, James Foy, leads the crowd in a "War Eagle" cheer.

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