March 29, 2003
AUSTIN, Texas - All of the possible criticisms of the 2002-03 University of Arizona's swim and dive were completely erased after Saturday, the final day, of the 2003 NCAA Championships from the Jamail Swim Center in Austin, Texas.
A fifth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships, only one regular season dual meet win or any of the other negativity levied at the 'Cats throughout the season was washed away as head coach Frank Busch led his squad of eight swimmers and one diver to an eighth place finish with a total of 205 points.
Auburn became the first team since Stanford in 1998 to win the NCAA Championship in both genders. The Tigers erased all opponents en route to totaling a whopping 609.5 points. Texas followed far behind in second (413 pts) and Stanford finished third by scoring 324 points. California and USC round out the top five with totals of 329 and 268 points, respectively.
Arizona closed out the 2003 NCAA Championships with a performance emblematic of their resurgence in the 400y free relay. Considered by many to be the Wildcats premier relay quartet, la Fleur, Rojas, Ferns and freshman Simon Burnett finished in third place in a blistering time of 2:52.65, breaking the old school record set in 2002.
The Wildcats began the night with three swimmers in the consolation or championship final of the 100y free, their highest representation in any event during the weekend. Junior Eric la Fleur dictated the pace with a sixth-place finish in a time of 42.93. In the consolation final, freshman Lyndon Ferns placed 11th when he touched the wall in 43.55. Two spots behind Ferns was junior Luis Rojas (43.76).
The most impressive performance by the Wildcats on Saturday night came from junior Juan Veloz. The Mexico City, Mexico native finished second in a school-record time of 1:42.62.
Veloz's time on Saturday night bests his own school record, set earlier this season at the 2002 Texas Invitational.
Elsewhere, junior Josh Anderson garnered his third Honorable Mention All-America selection of the 2003 NCAA's when he placed ninth on the 10-meter platform with a total of 469.90
With 5 competitors in 3 events, including 3 competitors in the championship final, the University of Arizona men's swimming and diving team is primed to rise from their current eighth-place position in the standings after the final day of preliminaries at the 2003 NCAA Championships from the Jamail Swim Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
In Saturday morning's opening event, the 100y free, the 'Cats put four swimmers into the water, the most in any individual contest in the entire meet. Of the four, three qualified for the evening finals. la Fleur led the way in second place with a lifetime best of 42.86, the second fastest performance in Wildcat history. Rojas and Ferns are eligible for the evening's consolation finals as they finished in 11th (43.55) and 13th (43.63), respectively. Burnett, the champion in the 200y free on Friday, rounded out the Arizona quartet in 21st (43.85).
All four Wildcat swimmers in the 100y free improved on their previous season best times.
In Saturday morning's third event, junior Greg Owen found out just how competitive the 200y breaststroke event was going to be. Despite setting his own lifetime top time and falling short of the Arizona school record by a mere .10, Owen finished 22nd (1:58.70), thus preventing him from advancing to either the consolation or championships finals.
Veloz, the top seeded qualifier in the 200y fly, lived up to billing when he touched the wall in 1:43.21 en route to garnering the third position in Saturday evening's championship final.
The quartet of Ferns, Rojas, Burnett and la Fleur finished Saturday morning's preliminaries with a fifth-place finish in the 400y free relay a blistering time of 2:54.66.