March 20, 2003
AUBURN, Ala.-- - The University of California's women's swimming team broke the school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay and garnered 62 points to stand in eighth place after day one at the 2003 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships in Auburn, Ala. Auburn University, the defending national champion, hosts the event at the Martin Aquatics Center. Cal finished in eighth place at the 2002 NCAA Championships.
Notching two wins in the first day of action, Auburn leads the field with 168.5 points. Georgia is in second place (123 points), Texas is third (114), Southern Methodist is fourth (104) and Stanford rounds out the top five teams with 81.5 points. USC is just one-half point away from catching the Cardinal, as the Trojans stand in sixth place with 81 points. Florida is currently is seventh place (79) and following the Golden Bears are ninth-place UCLA (45) and 10th-place Virginia (37). The Bruins recently won the 2003 Pac-10 Women's Swimming and Diving Championships.
"I think the girls did a really good job today and the school record in the 200 free relay and Natalie's (Coughlin) lead-off leg record time was a great way to start the meet," head coach Teri McKeever said. "All of the swimmers really moved up 100 percent from their seeded positions and that was a good way to open up the championships."
In the first event of the evening, Cal's 200 free relay team of juniors Natalie Coughlin and Danielle Becks, freshman Whitney Rockwell and senior Michelle Harper broke the school record with a time of 1:30.03 for a fourth-place finish. The previous record of 1:30.05 (Harper, Coughlin, Adrienne Mattos, Haley Cope) was set in 2001. Coughlin's lead-off leg 50 free time at 22.01, is also a school record, besting her mark of 22.05 she recently set at the Pac-10 Championships. The other Bear's relay swimmers also posted impressive split times, as well, as Becks swam a 22.91 split, while Rockwell's split was 22.57. Harper finished with a strong anchor leg split of 22.54. Georgia's 200 free relay squad captured the win, touching the wall in a pool record time of 1:28.96.
In the 500-yard freestyle, Southern Methodist's Flavia Rigamonti defended her national title, winning the event in 4:37.72. The Bears' freshman Ashley Chandler swam a season-best time in the 500 free prelims (4:49.63), but was unable to qualify for the consolation or championships finals. Chandler will next compete as the lead-leg in the 800 free relay, slated as the last event on Friday evening.
Auburn's own Maggie Bowen set a pool record in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:55.33. In the morning's preliminaries, junior Natalie Griffith clocked a solid time of 2:03.03 in the 200 IM, while sophomore Amy Ng swam a time of 2:04.58 in the event. Griffith is a member of Cal's 10th-seeded 200 medley relay, which is slated as the first event of Friday's finals.
Georgia's Maritza Correia defended her 50-yard freestyle NCAA title successfully, winning the event in a pool record time of 21.83. While Cal's sprinters were unable to qualify for the evening finals, they were impressive in the morning preliminaries. In the 50 free, senior Michelle Harper touched the wall in a season-best time of 23.03 and finished the preliminaries as an alternate for the finals. That mark also stands as the fifth-fastest time in Golden Bear history. Freshman Whitney Rockwell posted her season-best mark of 23.10, which is Cal's eighth-fastest mark all-time. Junior Danielle Becks clocked a 23.12 finish in the 50 free prelims, also good for her fastest time of the season.
The Bears' finished third in the 400-yard medley relay with a season-best time of 3:34.95. The squad of freshman Helen Silver, senior Staciana Stitts, Coughlin and Becks destroyed their previous season-best time of 3:39.04 in that event. Silver's lead-off leg time of 54.54 is a lifetime best in the 100 backstroke. Auburn's medley relay team of Kirsty Coventry, Bowen, Margaret Hoelzer and Becky Short placed first in an NCAA, U.S. Open and pool record of 3:31.45.
The NCAA Championships continue through Saturday. Friday's events begin with the 200 medley relay, followed by the 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 breast, 100 back, three-meter diving and 800 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.