March 22, 2003
AUBURN, Ala. - Fueled by three school records and numerous other superb efforts, the University of Arizona swimming and diving squad finished ninth at the 2003 NCAA Championships. The 'Cats, who jumped five spots from 14th after Thursday, collected 209 points, only six behind eighth-place California.
Auburn defended their NCAA Championship with a total of 536 points, followed by SEC rival Georgia in second (376 pts) and Pac-10 foe USC in third (284 pts). Southern Methodist (281 pts) and Florida (277 pts) rounded out the top five. All of the action took place from the James E. Martin Aquatics Center on the University of Auburn campus.
Despite ending their streak of top-five finishes at seven, the Wildcats placed in the top-ten for the 13th straight year.
In the end, Arizona had nine All-American first team selections and eight All-American honorable mention selections. The 'Cats broke school records in 3 events. Numerous personal and season bests also became a prominent theme among the times posted by the 12 Wildcat student-athletes.
Sophomore Emily Mason alone established two new school benchmarks; in the 400y IM and 200y fly. Senior Beth Botsford became the first Wildcat to break 53 seconds with her lead off swim in the 400y medley relay on Thursday.
Mason broke the her own school record that she had set earlier on Saturday by more than a second when she swam the 200y fly in a blistering 1:54.25. The Phoenix, Ariz. native scored 17 points in this event, vaulting Arizona to within two points of eighth-place California.
"I feel good about my swim, although I had an extra stroke in my first turn that kept me back for a bit. It was my best time this year. I had a good meet and hopefully I can do better next year." said Mason.
Mason was the 18th highest individual scorer among all swimmers and divers with 34 points.
The Wildcats began the Saturday evening finals with four swimmers in the 200y backstroke, a high total of any event. Former NCAA Champion and current Pac-10 Champion Botsford led the way for the 'Cats with a fourth-place finish. (1:54.17). In her final swim for the Wildcats, Botsford established a new season top time.
Arizona continued its streak of season-best performances in the 200y breast when junior Jessica Wagner placed 4th in the consolation final, 12th overall, when she touched the wall in 2:14.18. The Naperville, Ill. native's Saturday evening effort was the third-fastest mark in Wildcats history as well as being her 2002-03 season apogee.
Junior Claire Febvay, a 2003 Honorable Mention All-American, earned 2003 1st team status with a sixth-place finish in the 10-Meter platform. Febvay's five championship final dives garnered 420.20 points.
In the consolation final, Arizona's trio of sophomore Jessica Hayes (1:57.45), freshman Jenna Gresdal (1:58.44) and senior Julie Manitt (1:58.46) placed 12th, 15th and 16th, respectively. From this event alone, Arizona gained 23 points to close within 15 of eighth place California.
Behind sophomore Mason's second school record in as many days, the University of Arizona women's swimming and diving squad sat in prime position to move up in the standings after Saturday's NCAA Championship preliminaries.
The Wildcats, currently in ninth after two days by totaling 136 points, will swim seven athletes in Saturday evening's finals, including four in the 200y backstroke alone. After moving up five spots on Friday, the 'Cats have an even better opportunity to catch teams in front of them, such as California and Southern Methodist.
Mason, fresh off her school-record performance in the 400y IM on Friday, again showed her exceptional ability in the 200y fly. The Phoenix, Ariz. native obliterated the old school record of 1:56.31 when she finished in 1:55.33, a time that qualified her second in Saturday evening's consolation final.
Arizona closed out the 2003 NCAA Champonships with a 3rd place in the consolation final, 11th overall, en route to their top time of the season; 3:20.40.
The Wildcats opened Saturday's preliminaries with a performance that showed off their exceptional depth. All four Arizona swimmers in the 200y backstroke either qualified for the consolation or championship final to be contested Saturday night. Senior Botsford dictated the pace with an eighth-place mark (1:56.36); following Botsford was sophomore Hayes who established a new season-best time in touching the wall in 1:57.15, good enough for 11th place. Rounding out the Wildcat quartet was senior Manitt's new personal best time of 1:58.15 in 13th place and freshman Gresdal who finished 15th (1:58.38).
In the 100y freestyle, Smith continued her NCAA Championships resurgence with a new personal best mark of 50.46 en route to a 37th place finish.
Later on Saturday morning, Wagner qualified for her second final of the weekend when she placed 14th in the 200y breast, clocking in with a season-best time of 2:14.22. Freshman Erin Sieper followed only four spots behind Wagner in 19th (2:15.16).
The 'Cats finished up the Saturday preliminaries with a 12th place mark in the 400y free relay. Arizona's quartet of Hayes, Smith, Gresdal and Willis bettered their previous season apogee by clocking in at 3:21.13.
The final evening of the 2003 NCAA Championships kicks off at 4:45 pm (CST) with the final heats of the 1650y freestyle. At 7 pm (CST), all other finals to be contested will begin.
Arizona's season has now officially concluded but throughout the summer many current Wildcat swimmers and divers will be participating in various international events. Elsewhere, head coach Frank Busch has been selected to coach the women in the 2003 X Fina World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.