AU Finishes 5th; Cielo Swimmer of the Year

Auburn was not able to defend its NCAA men's swimming title.

Federal Way, Wash.--Junior Cesar Cielo broke another NCAA record on Saturday afternoon and broke it again on Saturday night, but his Auburn Tigers didn't have enough firepower to defend their national championship.

Auburn finished fifth at the 2008 Men's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Arizona won the team title with 500.5 points, ending Auburn's streak at five consecutive NCAA titles. Texas came in second with 406 points and was followed by Stanford with 344, Cal with 332.5 and Auburn with 316. It was AU's lowest finished at nationals since going seventh in 2001.

Cielo was named NCAA Swimmer of the Year, his second straight season to win the honor.

Going into the competition, Cielo held the NCAA record for the 100-yard freestyle. The old mark of 41.17 went down in the prelims with a swim of 41.12 by the Auburn junior. In the finals he sizzled with a time of 40.92.

That victory gave Cielo his 10th NCAA title, breaking the old Auburn mark of nine held by Brett Hawke, who is now an assistant coach for the Tigers.

Cielo also won the 50 freestyle and was on the winning 200 freestyle and 200 medley relay teams.

On Saturday night, he swam the anchor leg on the 400 freestyle relay as Auburn was edged out by Arizona to close the meet.

"Cesar was extraordinary and is just one of the greatest swimmers of all-time," said Quick. "It is going to be a long time before we see another like him. It has been an unbelievable honor to be associated with such a great, great swimmer and a great guy."

With back to back wins in the 100, Cielo joins Rowdy Gaines as the only Tiger to win back to back NCAA titles in that event. Gaines did it in 1980 and 1981.

"I had a feeling this morning when I broke the record that I could go under 41, but it is amazing, it really surprised me," Cielo said. "I just don't know what to say, it is really amazing. I'm really happy and I want to thank my coach for pushing me hard the whole season."

Senior Alexei Puninski finished sixth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 42.53 in the finals after swimming a personal-record 42.42 in the prelims.

"We came here for something different than we achieved," Quick said. "You have to take your hat off to Arizona and the other teams ahead of us, they did a great job. We just fell a little bit short of what I perceived of our full potential this week."

Another five-year streak that ended for the Tigers was a tradition of winning the platform diving event. Sean Moore of Ohio State finished first with a score of 478.20. AU's Dan Mazzaferro finished fifth at 440.55 and Kelly Marx finished 10th with a 367.9

Quick said that Cielo is "extraordinarily deserving" of being named swimmer of the year. "He is one of the best swimmers to ever swim in NCAA swimming competition. He will be remembered a very long time because of the breakthroughs that he has had in his career. To break 41 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle and to go under 18.5 in the 50-yard freestyle, that is unbelievable."

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