March 21, 2003
AUBURN, Ala. - After a disappointing performance in the 500y free on Thursday, sophomore Emily Mason erased all of that with a record-setting, dominating performance in the 400y IM, a highlight amongst many for the University of Arizona swimming and diving squad after two days of the 2003 NCAA Championships.
Mason, the second-place qualifier, obliterated the old Arizona school record by more than five seconds and logged the 12th fastest performance in history en route to a second-place finish in a time of 4:07.07. The Phoenix, Ariz. native fell short of victory to Auburn's Maggie Bowen, who has not lost in this event in nearly three years.
"It feels really awesome to be able to rebound from my performance yesterday. I am proud of myself to be able to put not making the finals yesterday behind me. Tonight I also got my first top eight finish." said Mason.
Mason's record-setting accomplishment exemplified a night where Arizona made a staggering jump of five places from 14th to 9th, giving the 'Cats a total of 136 points. In addition, the nearest competitor, Virginia, stands 58 points behind Arizona, virtually assuring them of their 14th straight top ten finishes.
Two Wildcat relays, as well as five other individual swimmers participated in the finals, which took place from the James E. Martin Aquatics Center on the University of Auburn campus.
Arizona has now broken two school-records, the 400y IM and the 100y back, through two days.
The evening session began with a season-best mark in the 200y medley relay for the Wildcats. Senior Beth Botsford, junior Jessica Wagner and freshmen Lisa Pursley and Marshi Smith were the quartet responsible for swimming a 1:38.96, good enough for fifth-place.
The Wildcats seemingly played a major role in the outcome of each and every event contested Friday night, and Botsford's performance in the 100y fly,which was the third event of the evening, did nothing to dispell that notion. The Timonium, Md. native, in what is considered her second-best event, finished 7th in the consolation final, 15th overall, when she touched the wall in a stellar 54.06. When the Friday events finished, it was apparent that Botsford's effort was essential to the 'Cats meteoric rise in the standings.
The 100y breast event brought yet another Arizona swimmer in the championship final as well as another personal best. Wagner finished sixth in the time of 1:00.58, her own personal best and the top time for the 'Cats all season.
In the 100y back finals, both Smith and Botsford represented Arizona and both performed exceptionally. Botsford, a former NCAA Champion, placed third in the championship finals when she touched the wall in 53.46. Smith, in her first NCAA Championships, placed seventh in the consolation final, 15th overall, in a time of 54.81.
In Friday's final event, the 'Cats easily swam their best time of the season in the 800y free relay when they touched the wall in 7:12.63, a time good enough for sixth-place. Mason led off the relay, sophomore Jessica Hayes swam second, freshman Jenna Gresdal third and freshman Katie Willis anchored the relay.
In other action, Auburn won the first two events and in the first, their 200y medley relay quartet set an NCAA, U.S. Open, American and Auburn pool record when they swam the event in an astonishing 1:36.69. In the next event, Auburn senior Maggie Bowen won her third consecutive NCAA Championship in the 400y IM (4:06.15).
Later on Friday evening, California junior Natalie Coughlin and Stanford junior Tara Kirk both established new Auburn pool records. Coughlin, the 2002 Swimmer of the Year, won the 100y back in 50.92 while Kirk won her third NCAA title in a row in an amazing 58.62.
In morning preliminaries both Arizona divers, juniors Daniela Bemme and Claire Febvay unfortunately failed to qualify for the evening finals in the 3-meter springboard. Febvay, a 2002 honorable mention All-American, led the way by placing 22nd (455.70 pts). Bemme followed by totaling 217.50 pts with her dives.
Earlier it seemed that, Friday's 2003 NCAA Championships preliminaries nearly ran the gamut of possibilities for the women's swimming and diving squad.
During the morning session, Arizona not only saw a school-record effort in the 400y IM, but also two new personal bests. To top it off, the Wildcats qualified for the championship or consolation finals of six events.
The Wildcats opened Friday's preliminaries with a fantastic performance in the 200y medley relay. Arizona's quartet of senior Botsford, junior Wagner, and freshmen Pursley and Smith swam the third-fastest time overall, 1:39.35, en route to gaining an ideal lane position for the evening finals. Only defending NCAA Champion Auburn and California surpassed Arizona's season-best time during the morning session.
Mason continued to build the 'Cats momentum in the 400y IM preliminaries when she swam a school record 4:09.74 en route to a second-place finish.
In Friday's third event the 100y fly, Botsford swam a season-best 53.91, thus granting her a 13th place finish and a spot in the evening's championship final. Pursley also competed in the 100y fly and she touched the wall in 55.03, enough for 35th.
Elsewhere, the Wildcats had two competitors in the 200y free, but unfortunately neither qualified for the evening's finals. Sophomore Jessica Hayes dictated the pace for the Wildcats with an 18th place finish (1:48.17), narrowly missing the consolation final. Freshman Katie Willis followed behind Hayes in 40th when she touched the wall in 1:49.88.
Another highlight of Friday's preliminaries was the performance of Wagner in the 100y breast. Wagner swam her season-best time of 1:00.69 en route to garnering the fourth-place position in the evening's championship final. Freshman Erin Sieper tied her regular season apogee of 1:02.29 in her 19th place finish.
In the concluding event of the preliminaries on Friday, Arizona brought three swimmers into the mix and two qualified for evening finals. As expected, Botsford qualified for the championship final with a second-place finish of 53.31. A pleasant surprise for Arizona was Smith who swam her own personal best on the way to a ninth-place finish, good enough to qualify for the consolation final. The freshman from Annandale, Va. fell only .02 seconds short of entering the championship final.
Also, Gresdal competed in the 100y back and placed 20th by clocking a time of 54.89
Seven events are set to be contested on Saturday, the final day, of the 2003 NCAA Championships. Arizona will be looking to finish in the top five for the sixth consecutive year. As usual, preliminaries kick things off at 11 am (CST) and finals finish the weekend at 7 pm (CST).