March 27, 2003
AUSTIN, Texas -- Arizona State freshman men's diver Joona Puhakka won the national championship on the 1-meter springboard this evening during day one of the 2003 NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships at the Jamail Texas Swim Center. Puhakka's tremendous season carried on with a school record setting performance of 395.80 in the final round to defeat his nearest competitor by nearly 37 points.
The team stands in ninth-place after the first day of competition with 52 points.
Puhakka stood in sixth position after the afternoon preliminary round with a score of 314.70, but the Finnish Olympian was not to be denied. He roared back in the evening session to break the ASU record he had been flirting with all season and sustain his unbeaten record on the 1-meter as a Sun Devil.
Coming into the meet, Puhakka stood less than a point shy of the previous Sun Devil 1-meter record of 392.48 and had come within 15 points of attaining the mark on four separate occasions.
The NCAA title in diving marks the first for Arizona State in 35 years and is only the third diving championship in Sun Devil history.
The meet started off well for ASU in the swimming pool, as the 200 freestyle relay squad of Nick Brunelli, Bobby Zaabadich, Wiley Wallace and Tom Hickman earned first-team All-American honors with their eighth place finish in 1:19.24. Brunelli led off the relay in a blistering 19.58 to set a career-best and move himself into second all-time in the Sun Devil record books.
Brunelli's impressive evening continued three events later in the 50 freestyle, as he took top honors in the consolation final, clocking a 19.60 to finish ninth overall. The junior All-American missed out on the championship final by three-hundredths of a second with a preliminary time of 19.75, his career best at the time.
Zaabadich, a senior, came in 16th place in the 50 free after swimming a 20.13 in tonight's consolation final. His morning prelim of 19.79 was also a career-best.
Day two of competition at the national championships begins tomorrow morning with swimming prelims at 11 a.m. Diving prelims are at 1 p.m. with all finals beginning at 7 p.m. Standings for the top-20 teams after day one of the meet are as follows:
1. Auburn 206 2. Stanford 121 3. California 115 4. Texas 107 5. Florida 81 6. USC 69 7. Minnesota 61 8. Georgia 55 9. Arizona St. 52 10. TAMU 45 11. Michigan 42 12. Arizona 41 13. Virgina 40 14. Wisconsin 38 15. Kentucky 28 16. Princeton 26 17. Tennessee 25 18. LSU 18 19. S. Carolina 17 20 BYU 15