AU Sweeps SEC Swimming Titles In Historical Style

Auburn started out hot at the 2003 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships and sizzled throughout the four-day event.

Auburn, Ala.--On a night when the Auburn women's swimming team celebrated a historical performance, the men's team had plenty to shout about, too.

With All-American Maggie Bowen leading the way as the meet's high scorer with 60 points, a deep and balanced Auburn women's team showed why it is ranked No. 1 in the country. Auburn scored 841.5 points to run away with the team title, the first conference championship ever for an AU women's swim team. Florida (685) and Georgia (648.5), who are considered the main threats to keep Auburn from repeating as national champs next month at the NCAA Championships set for Auburn, never seriously threatened to prevent Auburn from winning the conference title which had previously eluded many strong Auburn teams.

"I couldn't ask for anything better," said women's co-head coach Kim Brackin. "It shows that the talent level of this women's team is phenomenal."

Members of the Auburn 400-yard freestyle relay celebrate a victory in the final race of the SEC Championships.

The dominance was even more pronounced on the men's side as Auburn racked up an SEC record 918.5 points to show why the Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the nation. Florida had a strong meet, but finished way, way back in second place with 680 points and Georgia was third with 492.5.

Auburn's David Marsh, who was named the SEC Coach of the Year, said that the dominating performances should give both teams plenty of momentum going into the NCAA Championships. "This is exactly what the doctor ordered," he said.

The women's team receives its first ever SEC Championship Trophy from AU President William Walker and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

Commenting on winning the women's title, Marsh said, "I think the women's team has more respect for winning the conference championship after winning the national championship last year and not winning the conference championship. This is a tough meet to win. Every swimmer has to perform well at this meet. At the NCAAs, you can get by with 10 or 12 excellent athletes, but not at this meet."

Maggie Bowen carries the trophy as high point scorer as men's team captain Justin Caron offers congratulatons.

Marsh said the men's point total is truly impressive. "On the men's side, after winning the final relay we went over 900 points, which is a great barrier." The old record for points scored was 864 by Florida in 1985 and Auburn's previous high was 858.5 in 1998.

"I think this is the closest team since I have been here," Marsh said. "All the seniors, especially on the men's side, have come together and led. I would say that this is one of the highlights of my coaching career. I do not want the team to think about the NCAA Championships. They need to soak in this one. This win is worthy of a celebration. I want them to understand the magnitude of this event. It is an incredible accomplishment."

Coach David Marsh (in tie) accepts congratulations following the double Auburn victory on Saturday night.

Auburn athletic director David Housel was impressed with what he saw. "It doesn't get any better than this in the sport of swimming except for winning two national championships," he said. "Who knows, we might be able to do that, too. What happened here is a tremendous compliment to David Marsh and everybody involved in the program. Going back to the very beginning, Auburn has made a strong commitment to swimming led by David, who is a former Auburn swimmer himself. It makes moments like this even more special."

The men's team receives its seventh consecutive SEC Championship Trophy.

The last time the same school won both the men's and women's SEC titles was when Florida pulled it off in 1993.

In the women's competition, Auburn's 841.5 points was a school record at the SEC meet. Florida was next with 685 and followed by Georgia (648.5), Alabama (316), Tennessee (278), South Carolina (260), LSU (247), Arkansas (244) and Kentucky (212).

The Auburn men scored a 238.5-point victory over Florida, which had 680 points. Georgia was third at 492.5 and was followed by Tennessee (455), Alabama (376), Kentucky (270.5), LSU (218) and South Carolina (188.5).

Bryce Hunt, who won the 200-yard backstroke, didn't disagree when asked if the Tigers have built a dynasty in SEC men's swimming with their ninth title in the past 10 years. "It looks like it," he said. "I am very proud to be part of the legacy that guys like Aaron Ciarla and Dean Hutchinson put together for us. I am a junior now, and each year I appreciate it more."

Auburn opened the fourth and final night of competition with B.J. Jones taking fourth in the 1650-yard freestyle in a season-best time of 15:15.03 for the men and Magda Dyszkiewicz finishing second for the women with an NCAA automatic qualifying and season-best time of 16:17.42.

The women's team, which was on a roll in the pool, did better than anticipated in diving as Kelsey Patterson and Ashley Rubenstein took third and fifth in the women's platform finals.

Next up, Bryce Hunt set an SEC record in the 200-yard backstroke (1:41.73), bettering the old mark of 1:41.76. "I am thrilled to death to finally win this event," Hunt said. "I had some great competition in this race and that pushed me. I am a little surprised at how fast my time was, but setting the SEC record is awesome."

For the women, defending SEC champion Margaret Hoelzer of Huntsville set an SEC record in the 200-yard backstroke in at 1:52.83. Teammate Kristy Coventry (1:53.87) finished second to her for the second straight year and also swam faster than the old SEC record of 1:55.27. "I certainly did not think I would go this fast tonight," Hoelzer said. "I was hoping to go around 1:53."

After setting an SEC record in the 100-yard freestyle prelims, Ryan Wochomurka matched his morning time of 42.98 on Saturday night, but that placed him second to Jayme Carlos of Florida, who swam 42.89. Auburn's Fred Bousquet and Matt Kidd finished third and fourth spots.

In the women's 100, Eileen Coparropa took second for Auburn in a school record time of 48.69 and teammate Becky Short took third in 49.45.

Team co-captain Justin Caron swam 1:56.92 to take third in the men's 200 breaststroke, just ahead of teammates Mark Gangloff and co-captain Pat Calhoun. Laura Swander was fourth in the women's 200-yard breaststroke with a season-best, NCAA automatic qualifying time of 2:13.60.

In the 200 butterfly, Jeremy Knowles took second with in a career-best, NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:44.49 while Andy Haidinyak was third with a career-best, NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:44.49. Hoelzer took second for the AU women.

Auburn's Caesar Garcia is shown on his dive off the 10-meter platform that scored a perfect 10.

Caesar Garcia thrilled the crowd at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center with two personal and school records. In the prelims, he scored 627.40, but smashed that record late Saturday night with a score of 672.5 to win the 10-meter platform diving competition. Auburn diving coach Jeff Schaffer said, "Caesar deserves this as much as everybody else. This was just awesome."

Fittingly, the Tigers dominated the final events of the meet. The men's foursome of Bousquet, Derek Gibb, Matt Kidd and Wochomurka set an SEC record of 2:51.96 in the 400-yard freestyle relay and the women's team of Coventry, Coparropa, Short and Bowen easily won the event in 3:16.75.

The men's and women's teams continue an Auburn celebration by taking a plunge into the pool following a big victory.

The final team competitions for both the Auburn women and men are the NCAA Championships. The women's NCAA event is set for March 20-22 in Auburn and the men's meet is March 27-29 in Austin, Texas.


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