Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

Brian Kimball

The No. 4 Arizona women’s swim team had one main goal at the start of the season – to win a national championship – and it accomplished that through a true team effort.

At the 2008 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Columbus, Ohio,
Arizona made history en route to a 136-point blowout win over two-time defending national champion Auburn, the No. 5 team in the nation.

The key to the Wildcats’ title was their record-setting relay teams. Arizona became the first school ever to sweep all five relay events (200-yard freestyle, 400y medley, 200y medley, 800y freestyle and 400y freestyle) and it did so in an equally record-setting fashion. Arizona set meet records in all five events, American, NCAA and U.S. Open records in every event but the 800y freestyle and pool records in both medley events and the 800y freestyle.

“”It was all about the team and putting together four girls who could relay up like they did,”” said UA head swim coach Frank Busch. “”That’s why we won.””

Senior Lacey Nymeyer was on every relay team except the 200y medley squad, juniors Taylor Baughman, Lara Jackson and Anna Turner were on three relay teams and
Hailey DeGolia was on two of the record-
setting squads.

“”The 800y freestyle was definitely the highlight, for me, of the entire meet,”” Baughman said. “”We were seeded eight and could have finished out of top-eight (in the preliminaries) and we took fourth in that event in Pac-10s, but everything came together the way it needed to. It just says a lot about the team that you have essentially 20 national champs.””

Another huge reason behind Arizona’s win was its meet-high 18 swimmers who qualified for the meet. Arizona managed only two individual titles, Nymeyer in the 100y freestyle and Jackson in the 50y freestyle. Many of the other qualifiers, however, placed high enough to score points toward the team’s championship.

But it was 100y backstroke which best exemplified the Wildcat’s depth. Arizona picked up 50 points just from that event as DeGolia finished second and sophomores
Justine Schluntz, Ana Agy and Andrea Boritzke took fifth, sixth and 11th, respectively.

“”It was one of the fastest meets in NCAA history and just to make it to this meet was an accomplishment,”” said Nymeyer. “”It just shows the strength of our team.””

Arizona wasn’t necessarily surprised in the final outcome, but was by the way it dominated the meet as a team.

“”That doesn’t usually happen at NCAAs,”” Nymeyer said. “”Usually it comes down to the wire in every single race and for us to dominate the way we did in the caliber of meet that it was, it was phenomenal.””

Added Baughman: “”I don’t know if anyone expected that, anyone. We definitely capitalized on our opportunities and it was just awesome. It was beyond the best experience.””

Into the diving well

The Arizona dive teams were also in action over the break in the Zone E Regional Dive Championships in Oklahoma City in an attempt to qualify for the NCAA championships. While no female diver could qualify, freshman Ben Grado did enough to earn a spot in this week’s 2008 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Seattle.

“”It’s a bit unusual for a freshman to make it to nationals, but he was real solid and was (diving) the way he has been all year,”” said Arizona head swim coach Michele Mitchell.

“”Ben is kind of an unknown diver. He didn’t dive a lot in high school so that made it all the more special that he qualified for the big dance. Just being there is a great accomplishment for him.””

The Zone championships were somewhat bittersweet for Arizona as senior and team leader Matt Bisordi fell short in his attempt to qualify for his first NCAA finals, but Mitchell was proud of the team’s overall performance.

“”I always tell my athletes that the sport of diving is about friendships and what it teaches you,”” Mitchell said. “”It helps mold your character and those are the truly important things you’ll carry with you throughout your life. (Matt) really showed his character and was really supportive of Ben. He’s been a very good mentor.””