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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    No more title drought for swim

    The UA pep band greets the UA mens swim team in front of McKale Center after winning the 2008 NCAA Mens Swimming and Diving Championship. It is a first in UA history to have both the mens and womens swim teams win national titles.
    The UA pep band greets the UA men’s swim team in front of McKale Center after winning the 2008 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship. It is a first in UA history to have both the men’s and women’s swim teams win national titles.

    In a sport dominated by Southern schools, the geography of that domination stayed the same – it just shifted a little farther west.

    Texas and Auburn have combined to win 11 of the last 12 men’s swimming national championships, but neither had an answer for a relentless Arizona squad in Federal Way, Wash., this weekend.

    The No. 1 Arizona men’s swim team have now added to the program’s historic season after winning the 2008 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. The Wildcats’ 500 points bested Texas (406), Stanford (344.4), California (332.5) and five-time defending NCAA champion Auburn (316.6), and brought a second national championship in as many weeks to Tucson.

    The national title capped an already eye-popping list of accomplishments for both the men’s and women’s squads. The men went undefeated in dual meets (9-0), the women won a third-straight Pacific 10 Conference Championship and both squads won national titles, all firsts in the history of Arizona swimming.

    “”I’m a little speechless. I’m just so proud of the girls and the guys and to see the hard work pay off is really something,”” said UA head swim coach Frank Busch. “”One title is one thing, two titles is crazy. I’m just thrilled for them and thrilled for this athletic department.””

    The men’s title run was almost a mirror image of the women’s. No individuals stood too far out from the rest as both squads had two swimmers win individual titles – senior Lacey Nymeyer in the 100-yard freestyle and junior Lara Jackson in the 50y freestyle for the women and seniors Albert Subirats’ repeat win in the 100y butterfly and Darian Townsend’s 200y individual medley title.

    Both team championships were exactly that – team championships.

    The women had an NCAA maximum 18 swimmers qualify for the meet, enabling them to qualify many swimmers for the finals and earn valuable points toward the team title. The men’s team followed suit and qualified 13 swimmers for the NCAAs.

    At least one swimmer placed in the top nine in each event Arizona had a competing swimmer (the 200y butterfly was the only event Arizona didn’t have a representative).

    While the women dominated their meet by sweeping all five relay events, an NCAA championship meet first, the men only won three of the five relays (400y medley, 800y freestyle and 400y freestyle), but placed second in the other two events (200y freestyle and 200y medley).

    “”I came from Brazil and I had no idea what ‘a team’ meant,”” said junior Nicolas Nilo. “”My freshman year I was kind of confused and I was learning a little bit about everything. Now I think I finally got the definition of the word ‘team,’ and this is it.””

    Subirats and Townsend helped pace Arizona as each swimmer took part in four relays to go along with their stellar individual performances. In addition to the individual titles, Subirats also took second in the 100y backstroke and third in the 50y freestyle while Townsend placed second in the 200y freestyle.

    “”We knew it was gonna be a close race with Texas and Auburn but the second day was huge for us,”” Subirats said. “”We won the 800 free relay and we got 10 people in the ‘A’ Finals (out of five events), so that was the difference, that was the big separator.””

    Arizona had a diver competing in the men’s NCAA Championships as well. While freshman Ben Grado might not have done as well as he would have hoped, he returns a national champion nonetheless.

    Grado had a rough first time on the springboard portion of the competition as he placed 23rd on the 1m and 27th on the 3m. But he rebounded with a 19-place finish on the platforms and fell only 11.8 points shy of qualifying for the finals.

    “”The swim team did a great job of trying to hold Ben up and make him feel a part of the team,”” said Michele Mitchell, UA’s head dive coach. “”Because while you win nationals in one event, it’s a total season of winning and Ben contributed very strongly in the Pac-10 Championships and dual meets all throughout the year and I know he learned a whole lot at the NCAAs.””

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