March 20, 2003
AUBURN, Ala. - Led by a seventh-place finish in the 400y medley relay, the University of Arizona women's swimming and diving squads sit in 14th place with a total of 32 points after the first day of the 2003 NCAA Championships. The Wildcats were only able to qualify into the finals of two events during competition Thursday at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center on the University of Auburn campus.
In Thursday's final event, the 400y medley relay, Arizona made their only championship final appearance of the day where they finished seventh in a time of 3:38.12. Arizona led after the first leg of the event when senior Beth Botsford finished the backstroke portion in 53.14. However, the trio of junior Jessica Wagner, sophomore Jessica Hayes and freshman Lisa Pursley fell behind eventual winner Auburn as the race progressed.
Auburn set a new NCAA, American, U.S. Open, meet and pool record by finishing the event in a time of 3:31.45, bettering the record set by Stanford in 2002.
Botsford set a new school record and a personal best in the opening leg of the 400y medley relay, the 100y back, when she touched the wall in 52.91 during Thursday preliminaries. This time bests Botsford's previous personal best by nearly .3 seconds. It is also the first time in her Arizona career that she swam the event in under 53 seconds.
The 'Cats began the evening finals with a fifth-place finish, 13th overall, in the 200y free relay. Arizona's foursome of freshman Jenna Gresdal, Pursley and Marshi Smith and Hayes swam the event in a time of 1:32.61, .50 slower than their preliminary time.
Neither of the two Arizona divers were able to qualify for the finals in the 1-meter springboard. During the preliminaries, junior Claire Febvay placed 28th by garnering 239.90 pts. While junior Daniela Bemme finished 35th with a score of 211.15 points
In Thursday's opening preliminary event, the Wildcat quartet of Hayes, Gresdal, Pursley and Smith finished 12th in the preliminaries in a season-best time of 1:32.11, thereby qualifying for the consolation final.
The Wildcats once again came through in the concluding event of Thursday's preliminaries. Arizona's 400y medley relay squad of Botsford, Wagner, Pursley and Hayes finished second in their heat, sixth overall, in a season-best mark of 3:36.79.
Botsford set a new school record and a personal best in the opening leg of the 400y medley relay, the 100y back, when she touched the wall in 52.91. This time bests Botsford's previous personal best by nearly .3 seconds. It is also the first time in her Arizona career that she swam the event in under 53 seconds.
Arizona will have only the 400y medley relay team competing in the championship final Thursday night.
The eighth through 16th place teams qualify for the evening's consolation final, and the Wildcats will be right in the midst later Thursday evening.
Elsewhere, Smith swam her second best mark of the season in the 50y free when she touched the wall in 23.33 en route to a 39th place finish.
Arizona boasted two swimmers in both during Thursday morning action in the 50 and 500y free. In the 500y, sophomore Emily Mason finished 17th, one spot short of the consolation finals (4:47.17). Teammate freshman Katie Willis placed 46th in the event in a time of 4:54.09. In the 50y free, Hayes finished 53rd while Gresdal earned 57th with times of 23.44 and 23.58, respectively.
In other action, Georgia's 200y free relay quartet broke the Auburn pool record, which had been broken earlier in the day by the Tigers, in a time of 1:28.74, en route to their second consecutive title in this event. Later Thursday night, Auburn's Maggie Bowen broke her own pool record in the 200y IM when she clocked in at 1:55.33. Bowen becomes only the third swimmer ever to win the NCAA title in the 200y IM three consecutive years.
Swimming in the 2003 NCAA Championships resumes Friday with preliminaries at 11 am, followed by the finals at 7 pm. Eight events are scheduled to be contested tomorrow, including three relay events and the 3-meter diving.