April 5, 2013
The NCAA Championships were some of the most historic days, if not the most, for the University of Arizona swimming and diving teams. The Wildcats earned six national titles at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, Ind.
“I was really happy with the way both teams came together,” said head coach Eric Hansen. “Our rate of improvement on both sides made me really happy, our relays really stood out. I’m really pleased with the way the group put it together.”
What makes the accomplishments even more impressive is that this could have been the best performance by any Arizona swimmer or diver, and there have been some athletes that have competed here for the Wildcats that have gone on to win medals in the Olympics.
On the women’s side, the Wildcats started competition on March 21 and finished on March 23.
Margo Geer and Samantha Pickens earned individual national titles in their respective competitions on day one of the event. Geer posted a time of 21.73 in the 50 free, winning by just .15 seconds. Pickens won the diving competition with a score of 348.45 in the 1m competition. Pickens became the first female in Arizona history to win a national championship in diving.
History was made on day two as the Wildcats broke the school record in the 800 free relay by about one second. Bonnie Brandon, Geer, Grace Finnegan and Monica Drake finished with a time of 6:57.26, also about five seconds faster than their previous season-best mark. They finished in second place.
There would be some more hardware that would be brought back to the desert after the third day of competition. Geer earned another individual national title after winning the 100 free with a time of 47.19, .18 seconds faster than the second place finisher. Later on that day, Megan Lafferty, Geer, Kait Flederbach and Drake finished in second-place in the 400 free relay. The four shattered the school record by about one second with a time of 3:10.63. Not only did they break the school record, they set a new American record in the competition.
“It was awesome,” said Geer. “Our fifth-place finish doesn’t explain how amazing it really was. Our relays were really amazing, and it solidified how fun it is to train for that kind of experience. I was really happy to represent the University of Arizona.”
Hansen was incredibly happy with the way Geer performed at the NCAAs.
“Margo is coming into her own,” said Hansen. “She was pretty dominant at that meet, individually and in the relays. She was on every one of our relays, and put them all in the top-three, which was a goal of ours. To win the two titles and be the fastest swimmer in college swimming right now says a lot.”
When it was all said and done, the women’s team finished with three individual national titles, and finished in fifth place as a team for the second year in a row.
On the men’s side, competition began on March 28, and finished on March 30.
Kevin Cordes was the highlight of the first day not only for the Wildcats but for the entire field. Cordes participated in the 400-medley relay with Mitchell Friedemann, Giles Smith and Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or. The group took the title with a time of 3:02.09, just shy of the NCAA record. Cordes swam his leg in 49.56, which is the fastest breaststroke leg in history.
Day two was just as impressive for Cordes. In the prelims for the 100y breast, he broke his own American record, but when the finals came up, he dominated. He swam a time of 50.74, breaking the NCAA, American, U.S. Open, and school record. Cordes defended his title in this event, making him just the 15th swimmer to win multiple titles in the 100y breast. The Wildcats finished in third place in the 200-medley relay with a time of 1:23.23. Friedemann, Cordes, Smith, and Shapira Bar-Or broke the school record by .30 seconds with that time.
Once again, Cordes shined on day three of the event. He became the fastest man to ever swim the 200y breast with a time of 1:49.79. Cordes is the first to ever swim a sub-1:50 mark, and that was just in the prelims. He followed up his performance in the finals with a blazing time of 1:48.68, earning another national title. Teammate Carl Mickelson also had a very impressive performance by finishing in the 200y breast with a time of 1:51.90, a new personal best for him.
When competition had been completed, the men’s team walked away with three titles, and a third-place finish.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Cordes. “Seeing everyone swim so fast was motivating, and it was a lot of fun. When I found out about the records, it was just pure happiness and excitement. Being able to throw up the Wildcat sign after meant a lot to me.”
Not surprisingly, Hansen was very pleased with the way Cordes performed.
“Kevin threw together one of the greatest swims in the history of our sport, and it could be the greatest,” said Hansen. “He’s on a learning curve right now that I’m not sure has been seen before, but it is a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Even though this was one of the best performances individually for the Wildcats, there is still room for improvement.
“We can take the next step,” said Hansen. “We want to compete for a title but I was pleased with what we did this year. I think in the near future we will be in the hunt. We have the top-end performers but we just need a few more people in supporting roles who can score individually and help us in relays, as well.”