Last year at the nationals in Athens, Ga., Auburn rallied on the third and final day to defeat host Georgia after trailing by 53 points after two days of competition. This season the Tigers are again in second place. This year they are 32 points off the pace set by Arizona.
Arizona is first with 375 points followed by Auburn's 343, Cal's 261.5, Stanford's 250 and 195 by Georgia. The Tigers are aiming to win their fifth NCAA women's championship in six years in Coach David Marsh's final women's meet as AU head coach.
Auburn opened Friday night's finals with a third place in the 200 medley relay and followed that with record-setting wins by Ava Ohlgren in the 400 individual medley and Rachel Goh in the 100 backstroke.
The Tigers just missed pulling six points closer to Arizona on the final event on Friday night, the 800 freestyle relay. Auburn swam a school-record time of 7:01.05 to lose by .06 seconds to Cal. Emily Kukors, swimming the third leg of the relay, took Auburn from more than three seconds off the pace to the lead, but AU's Adrienne Binder was caught on the final leg.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team tonight," said co-head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. "We showed a lot of heart and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
One of the most impressive performances for an Auburn swimmer in a big meet came from Ohlgren, who won the 400 individual in a school-record time of 4:04.08, breaking the mark set of 4:04.48 held by Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry. Ohlgren slashed almost 11 seconds off her best time in defeating defending NCAA champ Whitney Myers of Arizona.
"I didn't really know what to expect, but I was really happy with the outcome," said Ohlgren. "I just tried to go out there and swim my race. Our coaches told us to just go out there and get our personal best times and do what we can, and that's what I did."
Tierney-Walker was pumped with the performance. "What a fantastic swim against a great field," she said. "It's great to see her win her first national title."
Julie Stupp swam a personal-best 4:07.32 to finish fourth while Binder placed sixth with a time of 4:10.08.
Rachel Goh took first place for the Tigers in the 100 backstroke.
Goh defended her 100 backstroke title in a school-record time of 51.97, breaking another record held by Coventry. Goh's previous best was 52.34. "It was really exciting for me," said Goh. "Of course, I wanted to defend my title, but I swim my races not for myself but for the other 19 girls on the team. I rely on them and they rely on me."
In the same race, 44th seed Melissa Marik finished eighth.
Emily Kukors broke her school record in the 200 freestyle that she had set during the prelims when she posted the fastest qualifying time of 1:43.96. She finished second in the finals to Arizona's Lacey Nymeyer, who won in 1:43.49 to 1:43.72 for Kukors.
Senior Lynnsey Seagraves scored points in the three-meter springboard diving with a sixth place finish with a personal-high score of 347.90.
In the 200 medley relay, Goh, Kara Denby, Margo McCawley and Kukors swam a season-best time of 1:38.06 to finish third.