March 26, 2008
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - The Auburn men's swimming and diving team looks to become just the second team ever to win six NCAA Team Championships in a row this week as the Tigers prepare for the 2008 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships gets underway in Federal Way, Wash.
The three-day meet begins Thursday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center and runs through Saturday. Preliminary action begins each afternoon at 2 p.m. CT with finals beginning at 9 p.m. CT.
Auburn enters the meet as the defending champion, having won the last five NCAA team titles, and is fresh off its 12th-consecutive Southeastern Conference team championship.
"We are coming into this week with high expectations and we are focusing totally on this meet," said head coach Richard Quick. "We feel like we used the SEC Championships as a dress-rehearsal for this competition and our guys are ready to go. They are in a great frame of mind, confident, relaxed, focused and ready to attack this thing as a team, so we are really looking forward to the competition."
The competition looks to be tough as the Tigers enter the meet ranked fifth in the nation. In what looks to be a six-team battle for the title, Auburn will have to battle with Arizona, Stanford, Texas, Michigan and Florida for the title as the best team in the nation. Texas enters the meet as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, followed by Arizona, Stanford, Michigan and then Auburn. Florida comes in at sixth.
"The men's championship, on paper, is going to be a very, very close race between about five or six teams and we are excited that we are one of those teams," said Quick. "Anytime that you have a great swimmer like Cesar Cielo to rally around, it gives a level of confidence to everybody on the squad, including the coaching staff. So, we are excited about our chances."
Cielo, the 2007 NCAA Swimmer of the Year, will lead Auburn's charge as he looks to defend his titles in the 50 free and 100 free. He also swam on Auburn's winning 200 and 400 free relays last season while also swimming the freestyle anchor on the winning 200 medley relay team.
The rest of the NCAA champion 200 medley relay team also returns with Scott Goodrich
(backstroke), David Maras
(breaststroke) and Alexei Puninski
(butterfly) return to give Auburn another shot at the NCAA title.
Last year, Auburn pulled out a 169-point victory at the NCAA Championships, scoring 566 points at the meet. Stanford finished second with 397 points, followed by Arizona (371), Florida (321) and Texas (296).
The Tigers set a school record with 65 All-America honors at the meet from 18 different athletes.
Auburn enters this year's meet with the second-most athletes on the psych sheet at 17. Texas leads all teams with 19 athletes, 16 swimmers and three divers, followed by Auburn (15/2), Florida (17/0), Arizona (14/1) and Stanford (14/1).
Back for Auburn are eight athletes that accounted for 40 All-America honors at Auburn, including Scott Goodrich (10 All-America honors), David Maras (three), Luke Weniger (one), Alexei Puninski (eight), Cielo (12), Kelly Marx (two), Dan Mazzaferro (two) and Tyler McGill (two).
The NCAA meet is the first men's championship meet for Auburn's head coach Richard Quick since his first stint with the team from 1978-82. Quick is tied with former head coach David Marsh for the most NCAA title won at 12 each, but a win this week would be his first as a men's team coach. The closes Quick came to a men's NCAA title was in 1980 and 1981 as Auburn's coach when the Tigers posted a pair of fifth-place finishes.
A win this week would also give Auburn six in a row, making them the first team since Indiana accomplished the feat from 1968-73 under the direction of legendary head coach James Counsilman. But, with history on the line, Quick says that streaks and records are not what the team is concerned with.
"Those are real interesting things for the media to talk about," said Quick. "Without a doubt, Doc Counsilman and Indiana's program back in those years, they were the gold standard of swimming. But, I think to this team, all we are concerned about is this year's team, focusing on this year's goal and we are really not carrying anything into it. You do not inherit anything in this competition from last year, you have to earn it and you have to earn it this year and that has kind of been our attitude all along."
Fans can follow the meet this week with live stats at www.GoHuskies.com. A live video Web cast will also be available by going to www.SwimmingWorldMagazine.com.