March 21, 2003
University of California junior Natalie Coughlin broke pool records in the 100-yard butterfly (50.62) and 100-yard backstroke (50.92) Friday evening, to secure her third consecutive NCAA Championship titles in those events. After two days at the 2003 NCAA Championships, the Golden Bears' women's swimming team has accumulated 154 points to stand in eighth place at the national meet in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn University, the defending national champion, hosts the event at the Martin Aquatics Center. The Tigers currently lead the meet with 389 points. Georgia is in second place with 262 points and Stanford rounds out the top three with 202.5 points. Cal finished in eighth place at the 2002 NCAA Championships.
Coughlin became Cal's first women's swimmer to ever secure two national titles three years in a row. Tomorrow, she will try to win the championship title in the 200 back-also for the third straight season. Former Cal star, Mary T. Meagher won four consecutive NCAA titles in the 200 fly (1983, 1985-87).
Staciana Stitts was also impressive at Friday's finals, breaking the school record in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.30). Stitts, who has owned the record since 2000, edged it by just one-one hundredth of a second (1:00.31). The senior finishes her career as Cal's finest breaststroke ever, owning school records in both the 100 and 200 breast (2:11.34) events.
"Tonight went well for our team. Natalie's (Coughlin) two NCAA were titles were great, and there were some good swims all around," said Cal assistant coach Adam Crossen. "Our 200 medley relay really stepped up to place third in a very strong field and Staciana (Stitts) can leave Cal on a high note, swimming a lifetime best in the 100 breast."
In the first event of the evening, Cal's 200 medley relay team of Coughlin, Stitts, junior Natalie Griffith and senior Michelle Harper, finished third with a time of 1:38.65. The Bears' shaved nearly two seconds of their previous season-best time (1:40.53) in the relay. Auburn's team set a new American, U.S. Open and NCAA record in the event in a time of 1:36.69, while Stanford took second-place in 1:38.42.
The evening's second event saw Auburn's Maggie Bowen capture her second individual title of the championships, winning the 400-yard individual medley in 4:06.15. Arizona's Emily Mason took second (4:07.07) and USC's Kaitlin Sandeno finished third (4:07.20).
North Carolina's Jessi Perruquet won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:45.01. Sophomore Lauren Medina was unable to qualify for the finals but did post a season-best time of 1:48.90 in the morning's preliminaries.
Stitts placed fifth in the 100 breast, scoring points for the Bears with her school record-breaking swim of 1:00.30. Stanford's Tara Kirk rewrote her own NCAA record in the 100 breast, winning the event in 58.62. Stitts will compete in the 200 breast in tomorrow's preliminaries.
Freshman Helen Silver has continually improved throughout the season and did not stop that trend Friday, placing third in the 100 back consolation final in a lifetime best of 54.25. That mark is good for fifth on the Bears' all-time Top 10 performances chart. Silver also swam the seventh-best time in Cal's history in the 200 back (1:57.81) this year. She will try to best that time tomorrow, as she is slated to compete in that event Saturday.
Auburn finished the evening off strong, winning the final 800 free relay event. The Tigers' squad of Margaret Hoelzer, Heather Kemp, Kirsty Coventry and Maggie Bowen touched the wall in an NCAA meet record time of 7:02.72. Cal's squad of junior Danielle Becks, Medina, freshman Ashley Chandler and Griffith finished in a time of 7:20.41.
The NCAA Championships conclude Saturday, Mar. 22. Tomorrow's events begin with the 1650 free, followed by the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, platform diving and 400 free relay. Preliminaries begin at 11 a.m. with finals at 7 p.m. Check http://www.auburntigers.com/ncaaswim/schedule.shtml for prelim results and www.calbears.com for a complete Cal recap and results.