Saturday March 23, 2002Women's Swimming Scores Big at NCAA's
On the final night of competition at the 2002 NCAA Championships, the No. 7. University of Florida women’s swimmers came out ready to swim. The Lady Gators scored five lifetime best swims and four top-five finishes to claim seventh place with 249 points.
Florida started a wildfire with what has proven to be their strongest event this year, the 1,650-yard freestyle. All three Gators placed in the top-five of the event after topping the best times of their collegiate careers. Leading the attack was sophomore Janelle Atkinson (Jamaica) who won the highest finish for UF in the championships this year taking second (16:01.01). Placing fourth (16:06.63), sophomore Sara McLarty (DeLand, Fla.) took her second trip of the week to the awards platform after taking sixth in the 400-yard individual medley last night. In her first NCAA’s, freshman Meredith Green (Chapel Hill, N.C.) touched the wall just behing McLarty scoring fifth (16:08.96).
Freshman Maureen Farrell (Northridge, Calif.) continued the rage when she scored a new career best in the 200-yard backstroke. Farrell scored second in the consolation finals of the event placing 10th overall. Farrell’s time of 1:56.66 is nearly a full second off of her personal best and moves her up to the third-fastest on the Florida school records list.
It what turned out to be one of the more exciting races of the night, freshman Rebecca Harper (Richmond, Va.) rocketed through the 100-yard butterfly scoring third place. Harper, who broke the SEC meet record set by Gator Olympian Tracy Caulkins in 1989, came just 11-tenths of a second from breaking Caulkins’ school record set in 1984. Harper was all smiles as she waved to the crowd of the orange-and-blue faithful as their screams filled the Jamail Texas Swimming Center.
"I am so happy," Harper said. "I was incredibly nervous about this all week. I am just excited to be here as a freshman. I am incredibly proud of our last night at the championships everyone did so well. I still feel that I could do better. I am not completely satisfied with my performance."
UF finished the night strong turning in the top time of the season in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Senior Leah Martindale (St. James, Barbados), sophomore Chantal Gibney (Dublin, Ireland), junior Diane Tennison (Lafayette, La.) and sophomore Janelle Atkinson (Jamaica) claimed the last All-America honor for Florida on the night finishing seventh with a time of 3:18.50.
Florida also had strong perfromances in events during the prelims in the morning. Junior Cerian Gibbes (Trinidad) placed 30th in the 200-yard breaststroke with her time of 2:17.44. Sophomore Jaime Ellis (Spring, Texas) scored 38th in the 200-yard Backstroke with her time of 2:03.22.
Auburn won the team title with 474 points for the first time in the program’s history. In fact, it becomes the first women’s NCAA title that the Tigers have won in any sport. Runner-up honors went to the defending national champion Georgia who scored 386 points. Rounding out the top three was Stanford, who finished with 301. Stanford controlled the College Swim Coaches’ Association of America (CSCAA) national rankings as undisputed No. 1 throughout the 2002 season.
"We have increased in point scoring and placing every year now," head coach Gregg Troy said. "These women have incredible strength of character. We had a rough night that first night but they responded and got better in every session since then. Each and every one of these women’s scored during the meet, and they all are All-Americans. It was an incredible team effort."
The eighth place for the Gators marks the second consecutive year UF has scored a top-10 finish. UF has been in the top-ten of the NCAA Championships ten times since 1990, five times in the top-five. Florida has one NCAA title won at the inaugural NCAA Championships hosted at their home pool in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium in 1982. UF won 20 All-America honors in 2002, to give Florida a total of 917 in the program history.
1. Auburn 474
2. Georgia 386
3. Stanford 301
4. Southern Cal 300.5
5. Arizona 291
6. Texas 267.5
7. Florida 249
8. California 245
9. SMU 178
10. Indiana 136
10. Arizona St. 136
1. Flavia Rigamonti, SMU (15:52.28); 2. Janelle Atkinson, UF (16:01.01); 3. Cara Lane, Virginia (16:04.54)
1. Natalie Coughlin, California (1:49.52); 2. Alenka Kejzar, SMU (1:54.18); 3. Kirsty Coventry, Auburn (1:54.37)
1. Maritza Correia, Georgia (47.56); 2. Stefanie Williams, Georgia (48.37); 3. Sarah Tolar, Arizona (48.78)
1. Tara Kirk, Stanford (2:07.36); 2. Agnes Kovacs, Arizona State (2:07.64); 3. Anne Poleska, Alabama (2:07.86)
1. Shelly Ripple, Stanford (1:53.23); 2. Georgina Lee, SMU (1:54.92); 3. Rebecca Harper, UF (1:55.66)
400-yard Freestyle Relay
1. Georgia (3:13.71); 2. Auburn (3:13.88); 3. Arizona (3:16.74)