Coughlin Earns Third Straight NCAA Swimmer of the Year Award
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  03/22/2003

March 22, 2003

After winning the 200-yard backstroke Saturday evening, University of California junior Natalie Coughlin became the first swimmer in NCAA history to earn three-consecutive titles in the 100 back, 200 back and 100-yard butterfly events. Coughlin also earned her third straight NCAA Swimmer of the Year award. Cal finished eighth (215 points) at the national championships in Auburn, Ala.

Auburn University hosted the event at the Martin Aquatics Center. The Tigers defended their national title, placing first with 536 points. The Bears' eighth-place finish was its second-consecutive at the NCAA Championships.

Coughlin became Cal's first women's swimmer to ever secure three national titles, three years in a row. Her time in the 200 back (1:50.86) was one of three pool records she set at the championships. Coughlin also set pool records in the 100 back (50.92) and 100 fly (50.62), last night.

Coughlin also led-off Cal's 400 free relay that set a new school record in the championship's final event.

"I was very happy with our eighth-place finish. The team did such a great job," said Cal head coach Teri McKeever. "Staciana (Stitts) and Michelle (Harper) really closed out their careers at Cal nicely, and Natalie's (Coughlin) record-breaking performances were inspiring."

In the first event of the evening, freshman Ashley Chandler finished the 1650 free in a time of 17:06.73. Southern Methodist's Flavia Rigamonti defended her national title, winning the event in a pool record time of 15:43.90.

The evening's second event was the 200 back, in which Coughlin won her third individual title of the meet. In that event's morning preliminaries, freshman Helen Silver finished with a time of 1:59.14.

Georgia's Maritza Correia defended her 100-yard freestyle title in the third event of the night. In the prelims, Cal freshman Cheryl Anne Bingaman finished in a time of 51.23, while senior Michelle Harper finished in 51.35. Junior Danielle Becks disqualified in the preliminaries round.

Senior Staciana Stitts won the 200 breast consolation final in a season-best time of 2:11.71. Sophomore Marcelle Miller competed in the 200 breast preliminaries, posting a 2:17.55 finish. Stanford's Tara Kirk defended her title in the event, touching the wall in a pool record time of 2:08.79.

The Georgia Bulldogs added another victory in the final day of action, as Mary DeScenza won the 200 breast in 1:53.51. Cal did not have any swimmers competing in the event.

The Bears finished the evening off strong, as Cal's 400 free relay broke a school record. It marked the third school record the Bears broke this past weekend. The squad of Coughlin, Becks, Bingaman and Harper finished third in Cal's top time of 3:16.21. Auburn's 400 free relay team captured the event in a pool record time of 3:14.15.

For today's complete preliminary and finals results check and for a complete Cal recap and results.

The NCAA Championships conclude the Bears' 2002-03 season. However, a few Cal swimmers will compete in national events, starting with the U.S. National Championships, Apr. 1. Also, Coughlin will join former teammate Haley Cope as a competitor and McKeever is an assistant coach for the Apr. 6 'Duel in the Pool' showdown between the U.S. and Australia. The sport's best athletes from both countries face off as swimming's greatest rivalry is set to take place in Indianapolis, IN and will be broadcast nationally on NBC.