Last year, Auburn trailed Arizona by 10 points after the opening day before going on to win its fourth title in five years. This year, the Tigers, with 155 points, are 13 points behind the Wildcats after the opening day, while Stanford sits in third with 123.5 points. Adrienne Binder earned her first NCAA championship, claiming the 500 free crown to highlight Auburn's first finals session Thursday night at the University Aquatics Center.
"I thought we were pretty solid today," said women's co-head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. "We came back a little faster tonight. It was a good first day but we're looking to come out tomorrow and be even better. I think we'll get a little better every day so it should be a lot of fun."
Binder earned her 11th career All-American honor but first national championship by dominating the 500 free, smashing her own school record with a mark of 4:36.96. Binder, who beat her previous record of 4:40.39 by more than three seconds, took the lead early in the race and stretched it out as the race went by, winning by nearly 1.3 seconds to become Auburn's first ever champion in that event.
"I'm extremely happy," said Binder. "I feel like that's been a long time coming and I'm really excited about finally getting that swim. It's an honor and really exciting. I couldn't go out any better way."
"I'm really proud of Adrienne," said Tierney-Walker. "She basically just didn't let anybody else win that race right from the start. It was a real tough swim for her, and a great win for her senior year."
Binder swims to victory Thursday night.
Hayley Peirsol, who was fifth in the prelims of the 500 free, moved up one spot to fourth in the finals with a time of 4:41.96 to earn her seventh career All-American honor. Maggie Bird continued her impressive day, as the freshman who was seeded No. 49 on the psyche sheet finished seventh in the finals. Bird had taken more than six seconds off her personal best in the prelims, then shaved another half second off that mark in the finals, finishing with a time of 4:42.64. Chelsea Haser also improved in the consolation final, finishing 10th in 4:43.38 after ranking 12th in the prelims.
Freshman Ava Ohlgren had a great finish to her first NCAA event, finishing second in the 200 IM with a time of 1:55.67, which ranks third best in Auburn history. Ohlgren had the top time in the prelims of 1:56.52, but even though she improved by nearly a second in the finals, Arizona's Whitney Myers improved by more than two seconds to 1:54.89 to win the event. Auburn's Emily Kukors earned her 13th career All-American honor, finishing fourth with a time of 1:57.13.
"I am so happy with that swim," said Ohlgren. "I just wanted to go out and perform my best because this meet is what we have been looking forward to all year. I dropped four seconds this year, and it's incredible and a really great opportunity."
"Ava is a gem of a freshman that we're really pumped up to have," said Tierney-Walker. "She enjoys racing and put up a great race with one of America's best 200 IM swimmers, and that gave her a lot of confidence."
Auburn opened the finals with a fourth-place finish in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:29.00, matching exactly the Tigers' time in the prelims. Kukors anchored with a strong leg of :21.99 seconds, but fell two-tenths of a second shy of catching third-place Michigan.
The Tigers finished sixth in the 400 medley relay finals with a mark of 3:36.15, as the team of Rachel Goh, Julie Stupp, Tawnie Bethune and Ohlgren improved on their time from the prelims, but dropped one spot from their fifth-place seed.
Kara Denby finished eighth in the finals of the 50 free with a time22.41. It was not as quick as her prelim mark of 22.30, but still an improvement from her 14th-place finish at last year's meet.
In the 1-meter diving competition, Corey Gerlach just missed both a spot in the championship finals and the school record during the prelims, placing ninth with a personal-best score of 319.00. She was just 1.25 points behind the eighth and final qualifier for the championship finals, and 1.3 points shy of the school record.
But in the consolation finals, what could have been an even better score was marred by a mistake on a reverse 1.5 somersault in the pike position during the fifth round. Gerlach scraped the board, and the resulting low score dropped her to a 15th-place finish with an overall score of 309.55 in the finals, earning her honorable mention All-America honors.
"What a great performance from Corey," said head diving coach Jeff Shaffer. "She had five excellent dives, but it was a disappointing way to finish after such a solid performance on her part. It's unfortunate that that little mistake happened at the NCAA championships, but she'll rebound and be stronger tomorrow. She didn't come close to All-American honors in the 1-meter last year, so it's a step in the right direction. I'm proud of her effort."
Lynnsey Segraves also competed on the 1-meter board, placing 23rd during the prelims with a score of 292.05.
Competition resumes Friday with prelims beginning at 11 a.m. CT. Live results can be found on the Minnesota athletics website at www.gophersports.com.
2007 NCAA Championships Day One Winners and Auburn Finishes
Women's 200 free relay
1. Arizona (Jackson, Nymeyer, Turner, Kelly), 1:27.23
4. Auburn (Denby, Ewing, Marik, Kukors), 1:29.00
Women's 500 free
1. Adrienne Binder, 4:36.96
4. Hayley Peirsol, 4:41.96
7. Maggie Bird, 4:42.64
10. Chelsea Haser, 4:43.38
Women's 200 IM
1. Whitney Myers (AZ), 1:54.89
2. Ava Ohlgren, 1:55.67
4. Emily Kukors, 1:57.13
Women's 50 free
1. Kara Lynn Joyce (UGA), 21.71
8. Kara Denby, 22.41
1. Nastia Podzniakova (HOU), 349.55
15. Corey Gerlach, 319.00/309.55
23. Lynnsey Segraves, 292.05
Women's 400 medley relay
1. California (Rogers, Hardy, Vollmer, Silver), 3:30.18
6. Auburn (Goh, Stupp, Bethune, Ohlgren), 3:36.15
Team Scores After Day One
1. Arizona - 168
2. Auburn - 155
3. Stanford – 123.5
4. California - 98
5. Georgia - 86