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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.---Auburn will host the 1998 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships as defending champion. The Tigers put together an impressive three- day run to claim the 1997 national title, which finished up Saturday night at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.

Auburn racked up 496.5 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Stanford, who had 340 points. Rounding out the top 10 were Georgia (297), Texas (286), Tennessee (235.5), Southern California (235), Michigan (209), Miami (197), Florida State (160) and SMU (157).

Auburn rode the strength of its sprinters and relay teams to the title. The Tigers won four of five relays at the event, piling up 40 team points for each win. The Tigers capped the end of the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay in 2:51.23, the second fastest time ever for that event. Swimming in the relay for Auburn was Scott Tucker, Brock Newman, Brett Hawke and Nick Shackell.

The national swimming title marks the first NCAA Championship in the history of Auburn athletics and just the second national championship. The 1957 football team won the Associated Press national title.

"To put it short...we we're thrilled," said head coach David Marsh, voted NCAA coach of the year. "I've been excited for a couple of days now. I've only slept about six hours the last two nights and normally I sleep very well."

Auburn actually ran off with the meet on the first day, scoring 173 points to Texas' 107. By the end of the second day's competition, the Tigers had stretched the margin to 349-238.5 over Stanford. Victories in the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 medley relay, along with a 50-yard freestyle championship from freshman Brett Hawke that paced the effort. The medley relay time of 1:25.40 was an NCAA and U.S. Open record.

Helping seal the championship was four of the top eight finishers in the 100 freestyle, including a second place finish from Shackell.

"I'm most happy for our student-athletes," said Marsh. "Both the ones on this team and those before them helped set this up.

"Seven years ago we had a scrappy crew that had a special love for Auburn. Guys like Dean Hutchinson, Bill Pilczuk and Yaov Bruck set a solid foundation and the team has carried that same attitude through the years, improving every year."

In addition to Shackell, Auburn got impressive performances from seniors Tucker, John Hargis and Koffi Kla. Tiger seniors have led the program from a fourth- place NCAA finish in 1994, third in 1995, second in 1996 and to a national title this year. Hargis and Tucker picked up and Olympic Gold along the way.

"We have an incredible crew of seniors," said Marsh. "Tucker and Hargis were able to put aside personal glory and financial gain for the good of the team.

"Nick Shackell is our spiritual leader and Koffi Kla is the consumate student athlete who had his best competition in his last for Auburn." Kla capped off his Auburn career by finishing eighth in the platform diving competition.

Auburn will host the 1998 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 26-28 at the Martin Aquatics Center.

Last Modified March 29, 1997
Auburn Media Relations

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