March 23, 2002
AUSTIN, Texas - ?gnes Kov?cs finished less than three tenths of a second short of winning the Sun Devils' first national event title since 1995, but Arizona State still had enough to claim its first top-10 finish in nine years as the women's swimming and diving NCAA Championships concluded at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin, Texas, Saturday.
With 136 points, ASU completed the three day meet tied for 10th with Indiana. The Sun Devils' first top-10 finish since 1993, it also marked the first time ASU had been inside the top-15 since 1995. It all came down to the last event as ASU's 400y freestyle relay team of Sarah Baham, Claire Hedenskog, Florencia Szigeti and Florence Mauro set a school record in 3:20.40 to place 12th overall, more than a second faster than Indiana's 13th-place effort of 3:22.13. ASU's 136 points is the most its compiled since tallying 145 points en route to an eighth-place finish in 1989.
The NCAA team crown went to Auburn and its 474-point performance. Georgia placed second with 386 points, followed by a trio of Pac-10 teams in Stanford (301), USC (300.5) and Arizona (291). Other Pac-10 finishes included California in eighth (245), UCLA in 17th (64) and Oregon State in 31st (14).
The reigning Olympic and World Champion in the 200-meter breaststroke, Kov?cs entered the NCAA finals of the 200-yard breast undefeated through 10 races this season. Included in that span the freshman from Budapest, Hungary, had defeated Stanford sophomore Tara Kirk, who yesterday became a two-time NCAA champion in the 100y breast, in all three of their meetings.
Saturday, Kirk had her revenge breaking NCAA, American and U.S. Open records with a time of 2:07.36 to edge Kov?cs, who improved her school record with a time of 2:07.64. Alabama's Anne Poleska took third place in 2:07.86.
With her runner-up finish to go along with fifth-place finishes in both the 100y breast and 400y individual medley turned in yesterday, Kov?cs finished her inaugural NCAA meet with 45 points, the ninth-most by an individual. California's Natalie Coughlin led all competitors with 60 solo points.
Earlier in the day, the 200y breast prelims dealt another heartbreaker to an ASU athlete. Clocking a time of 2:14.21, senior Riley Mants finished one spot short of qualifying for the consolation final, placing 17th, less than two tenths of a second behind 16th-place finisher Jen Noddle of UCLA (2:14.02).
In the 200y butterfly, Baham wrapped up her ASU career placing 12th in 1:57.98, slightly slower than her prelim effort of 1:57.83. Sophomore Florence Mauro was disqualified from the event in preliminary action.
ASU got a pair of strong performances in the 1650y freestyle. Sophomore Brooke Townsend came in at 16:26.51 to place 14th, while senior Amanda Stanford wrapped her Sun Devil career with a 17th-place time of 16:32.97.
Key members of ASU's clutch 400y free relay team, both Szigeti and Hedenskog competed in the prelims of the 100y free, but failed to advance to finals. Placing 31st, Szigeti swam her fastest time as a Sun Devil, a 50.32 that moved her into a tie with Hedenskog for second all-time at ASU behind only the 1990 record mark of Heidi Hendricks, 23.26. Hedenskog placed 27th in 50.53.
That concludes the 2001-02 swimming and diving season for the women of ASU. The Sun Devil men will compete in their national championship meet next week, March 28-30, in Athens, Ga. Like the women, 10 Sun Devil men have qualified to compete.
For complete results, go to Texassports.com
ASU Day Three FINALS:
1650y Freestyle - 14. Townsend, 16:26.51, 17. Stanford, 16:32.97
200y Breaststroke -- 2. Kov?cs, 2:07.64 **school record**
200y Butterfly - 12. Baham, 1:57.98
400y Freestyle Relay - 12. ASU (Baham, Hedenskog, Szigeti, Mauro), 3:20.40 **school record**
ASU Day Three PRELIMS:
100y Freestyle - 31. Szigeti, 50.32, 37. Hedenskog, 50.53
200y Breaststroke -- 2. Kov?cs, 2:10.70, 17. Mants, 2:14.21
200y Butterfly - 10. Baham, 1:57.83, DQ Mauro
400y Freestyle Relay - 12. ASU (Baham, Hedenskog, Szigeti, Mauro), 3:21.64