Auburn Wins 200 Free Relay Title to Start NCAA Championships

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
<B>Marcelo Chierighini</b>

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
Marcelo Chierighini
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

March 28, 2013

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INDIANAPOLIS - Auburn claimed its record-tying ninth all-time NCAA title in the 200-yard freestyle relay and set a new school record in the 500 freestyle to kick off the 2013 NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships on Thursday night at the IUPUI Natatorium.

The Tigers are in third place with 112.5 points after the first night of competition, which saw four Auburn individuals and two relay teams combine for 12 All-America honors. Michigan held the first-day lead with 153 points, followed by California with 123.5.

"That was really something that we wanted to do, start the meet off on the right foot," Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. "(The relay win) really set the tone and gave the guys a lot of confidence. Most everybody moved up tonight, and it was just a really good night for Auburn swimming. We had great energy before the first race; the guys were so locked in and so focused. The team is very well-led by Kyle Owens, and then we had our stud sprinter, Marcelo Chierighini, out front. It just gave the team a ton of confidence to finally bring that sprint title back to Auburn where it belongs."

The night couldn't have begun any better for the Tigers as the team of Marcelo Chierighini, James Disney-May, TJ Leon and Kyle Owens brought Auburn its first NCAA title since 2009 with a win in the 200 freestyle relay. Auburn's time of 1:15.48 was more than eight-tenths faster than runner-up Southern Cal, despite the Trojans' Vlad Morozov posting likely the fastest 50-yard split of all-time (17.86).

Auburn swam nearly a perfect race with reaction times on all three relay exchanges at 0.15 seconds or less. Chierighini built up a huge lead for Auburn with a leadoff leg of 18.99 seconds, followed by a blistering 18.87 from Disney-May. USC's Morozov pulled the Trojans nearly even with his record third leg, but a blazing 18.56 from Owens put the race out of reach.

Chierighini earned his highest-ever finish in the 50 freestyle later in the meet, finishing as the runner-up with a time of 18.99 behind USC's Morozov, whose 18.63 was the third-fastest time in history. Disney-May swam in the championship final for the first time, tying for seventh place with a time of 19.58; his 19.43 in the preliminary was a personal-best.

Junior Zane Grothe lowered his own Auburn record in the 500 freestyle for the third time in as many NCAA Championship meets with a personal-best time of 4:14.44, dropping a full second from his time at the SEC Championships and .98 seconds off his previous best, which he swam at last year's NCAA meet. Grothe's swim was good for seventh place in the championship final.

"I was glad I got a chance to race those guys again," Grothe said. "This morning I tried a new strategy, and it kind of crashed and burned. But I went in tonight with a more relaxed attitude, and that helped me focus on my technique and give the effort I needed to. It felt good tonight."

"Great swim, he dropped a full second off his best time," Auburn associate head coach Frank Bradley said. "Being in a really fast field, we'll take seventh place. He seems to like that outside lane, but anywhere you put him, he's a racer. In a field like that, you've got eight great guys, so it doesn't matter what lane you're in."

The 400 medley relay team of Owens, Stuart Ferguson, Arthur Mendes and Chierighini put a cap on the night with a fifth-place finish. Auburn posted a time of 3:05.65, bookended by a 46.02 backstroke split from Owens and 41.27 freestyle leg from Chierighini.

Junior John Santeiu also contributed points to the Tigers' effort with a 13th-place finish in the 1-meter diving consolation final. He posted a score of 333.65 in his first NCAA scoring opportunity and earned his first career All-America honor.

The second day of the 2013 NCAA Men's Championships will feature competition in the 200 medley relay, 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke, along with 3-meter diving and timed finals in the 800 freestyle relay. The Tigers have at least one entry in every event Friday. Prelims get underway at 11 a.m. ET (10 a.m. CT), and links to live results and live video can be found at AuburnTigers.com. Fans can also follow @AuburnSwimming on Twitter for continuous updates from the pool.

Auburn Swimming & Diving
2013 NCAA Men's Championships - Day 1 Finals
March 28, 2013
IUPUI Natatorium - Indianapolis, Ind.

Team Standings (Top 10): 1. Michigan 153, 2. California 123.5, 3. Auburn 112.5, 4. Southern Cal 100, 5. Texas 99, 6. Florida 97, T7. Arizona/Stanford 81, 9. Indiana 68, 10. Georgia 34

200 Freestyle Relay
1. Chierighini, Disney-May, Leon, Owens (1:15.48)

500 Freestyle
7. Zane Grothe (4:14.44) *AU Record*

50 Freestyle
2. Marcelo Chierighini (18.99)
T7. James Disney-May (19.58)

1-Meter Diving
13. John Santeiu (333.65)

400 Medley Relay
5. Owens, Ferguson, Mendes, Chierighini (3:05.65)

Auburn All-Americans (12)
Marcelo Chierighini (3) - 50 free, 200 FR, 400 MR
James Disney-May (2) - 50 free, 200 FR
Zane Grothe (1) - 500 free
Alex Hancock (1) - 200 FR
TJ Leon (1) - 200 FR
Arthur Mendes (1) - 400 MR
Kyle Owens (2) - 200 FR, 400 MR
John Santeiu (1) - 1M diving HM

Notes
--Auburn's 200 freestyle relay title was the 58th all-time NCAA individual or relay title in program history.
--It marks the ninth time that Auburn has won the 200 freestyle relay, which ties Stanford for the most wins all-time in the event.
--The win was the first individual or relay national title for Auburn since 2009.
--Zane Grothe has now set the Auburn record in the 500 freestyle at three straight NCAA Championships, lowering his mark by nearly a full second each time.
--Grothe was .98 seconds faster this year than at last year's NCAA Championships, where he finished fourth.