By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror
The University of Arizona officially owns college swimming.
The Wildcats rolled to the school’s first-ever Division I men’s swimming and diving championship Saturday night inside the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Arizona senior Darian Townsend, who helped the Wildcats win the final event of the meet — the 400-yard freestyle relay. “It’s something we’ve worked on all year. We knew we could do it, the coaches motivate us.”
Arizona’s title snapped Auburn’s five-year winning streak and stopped top-ranked Texas from capturing its 10th title. Auburn and Texas have combined to win every men’s title since 1998.
“I feel so happy for these guys, my coaching staff, and this school—and my family. This was special for my family,” said Arizona coach Frank Busch.
Busch also guided the Wildcat women to their first NCAA swimming title the weekend before.
“I can’t explain any of these last couple weeks,” Busch said. “It’s two teams that wanted to win, two teams with a lot of pride. There’s something about this group that’s very special. Coaches talk about their teams being special all the time but there’s something special about this group of men and women.”
Arizona finished with 500.5 points, followed by the Texas Longhorns (406), Stanford (344), California (332.5) and Auburn (316).
Although Arizona was the team stars of the three-day meet, the individual star in Federal Way was easily Auburn University Cesar Cielo. The junior, from Brazil, earned his second consecutive swimmer of the year award after setting a pair of NCAA records inside the King County Aquatic Center.
Cielo finished the weekend with the school record for NCAA career titles, increasing his total to 10, four of them this weekend.
“It feels great,” Cielo said. “It really feels like the goal has been achieved and all the hard work we put in all year paid off.”
Cielo won the 100-yard freestyle in 40.92 seconds, surpassing his record of 41.12 set in a preliminary race Saturday afternoon.
Cielo also swam the two fastest 50-yard freestyles of all time Thursday, winning the individual race in 18.52 after swimming the leadoff leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay in an NCAA and U.S. Open record time of 18.47. The swim helped Auburn win their third consecutive 200 free relay title. The Tigers also won the 200 medley relay crown.
“I was relieved actually,” Cielo said. “Everyone has been talking about it all season. It’s just hard when everyone’s expecting you to do something that you don’t know if you’re going to achieve or not. I felt the pressure was really strong and I handled it pretty well so I’m pretty happy with myself.”
Georgia senior Gil Stovall also set an NCAA record, winning the 200 butterfly in 1:41.33 to shatter a 17-year-old record and Ohio State freshman Sean Moore won platform diving with an NCAA-record 478.2 points.
“It feels really cool, but it’s really humbling, getting up there with that crowd,” Stovall said.
Georgia senior Sebastien Rouault and Stanford junior Paul Kornfield both won a pair of events over the weekend. Rouault claimed the 1,650 free and 500 free. Kornfield won the 100 and 200 breaststroke events.
The three-day meet was the first time the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center has hosted the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Champoinships. But the facility is no stranger to hosting national and international events.
The Aquatic Center was built to accommodate the 1990 Goodwill Games swimming and diving events and can seat up to 2,500 spectators. Over 200 national and world records have been established in the pool.
“The King County Aquatic Center is one of the nation’s top swimming and diving facilities, and is just one of only a handful in the country recognized as a world-class venue for international competitions,” said Mike Dunwiddie, the pool’s director.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com