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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    W-swim finishes third at NCAAs

    Pain and heartbreak.

    These are the only words to describe Arizona’s third-place finish at the 2009 NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships, perhaps the most shocking experience of head coach Frank Busch’s 20-year tenure at Arizona.

    Arizona (389 points) fell to the champion California Golden Bears (411.5 points) and runner-up Georgia (400.5 points) on Saturday after the unthinkable happened. In Friday’s preliminary 200-yard medley relay, a false start cost the highly-favored Wildcats a chance at points in the finals.

    “”It’s just really hard when you lose 40 points in a relay like that,”” said a solemn Busch. “”It just took the wind out of our sails.

    “”To their credit, the girls turned around, they wouldn’t stay down,”” Busch added. “”They just kept fighting and fighting, and they almost fought their way back in one of the closest meets in the history of (the NCAAs).””

    Had the Wildcats finished first through seventh place in that relay, the championship crown would have been theirs. Instead, a split second in the meet resulted in an unfortunate consequence, but while that split second altered the final scores, it did not define Arizona’s impressive showing.

    Opening Thursday’s events, the 200y freestyle relay team of Lara Jackson, Lindsey Kelly, Justine Schluntz and Taylor Baughman set a new American and NCAA record of 1:26.20 in their win. Jackson’s 21.27 lead-off leg reset her previous American record in the 50y freestyle of 21.33, which she set in December at the Texas Invitational.

    Jackson wasn’t finished, though, as she defended last year’s 50y freestyle title with a 21.40 second win. She then teamed up with Ana Agy, Annie Chandler and Schluntz to set a third American record in the 400y medley relay, helping Arizona to a lead going into the second day of competition.

    Furthermore, Jackson took seventh in the 100y freestyle and tenth in the 100y butterfly, ending her Arizona career as arguably one of the best swimmers to come through Busch’s storied program.

    With California and Georgia on its heels, Arizona’s lead came and went as the three teams jostled for points. They had no individual titles after Jackson’s 50y freestyle win, but with 18 competitors in the meet, Arizona’s depth kept the scores tight throughout the three-day event.

    “”I couldn’t be more proud of our team on how we battled back,”” Agy said. “”For everything that happened, I think our team really showed our strength.””

    Agy scored a bevy of points for the Wildcats when taking third in the 100y backstroke, fourth in the 200y backstroke and fifth in the 100y butterfly, while senior Julie Stupp placed seventh in the 200y individual medley and fifth in the 400 individual medley.

    Stupp also tied for fifth in the 200y breaststroke, touching the wall in 2:09.59, while Chandler finished in seventh place. In a 59.24 finish, the junior scored better in the 100y breaststroke, placing fourth overall.

    In the consolation heats – which are also scored – swimmers such as freshman Alyssa Anderson, senior Hailey Degolia and junior Jenny Forster provided the support to make up for the few first-place finishes, helping the Wildcats remain within striking distance.

    In the end, the 22.5-point deficit to California was too much to overcome, but for the women’s swim team, the mantra of “”Bear Down”” couldn’t be more true.

    “”It’s always hard to end a chapter in your life, especially when you go out not accomplishing everything you planned on throughout the year,”” said Stupp. “”Today, everyone woke up and it was surreal that it was over, but there’s not much we can do.

    “”We have to live off the great things we did accomplish,”” she added. “”We’re proud to be Wildcats.””

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