Auburn swims past Texas for NCAA team title

Published 9:37 am Sunday, March 29, 2009

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Auburn coach Richard Quick didn’t see his Tigers rally on the final day for their sixth NCAA men’s swimming and diving championship in the past seven years.

Chances are he would have enjoyed it.

Auburn won the meet-closing 400-yard freestyle relay and rode strong depth in the other finals Saturday night to overtake Texas with 526 points to 487 for the Longhorns, who led the first two days.

Quick wasn’t there because the former Texas women’s coach is in the late stages of inoperable brain cancer that was diagnosed in December. Tigers co-coach Brett Hawke said Quick had grown very sick of late. He said the team called Quick after winning the title Saturday.

“It’s a rapid spiral, but he knew we won tonight,” Hawke said. “It put a smile on his face.”

Quick won five consecutive women’s titles at Texas from 1984-88. He returned to Auburn last season after coaching the Tigers from 1978-82.

“Richard has been an inspiration,” said Auburn’s Matt Targett, who finished third in the 100 freestyle and swam the second leg on a 400 relay team that edged the Longhorns. “We’re trying to give back to him, and this is the best way we know how.”

The Longhorns led 348-342 going into the final day, but the Tigers went ahead for good with three events remaining. Then Auburn solidified the lead by taking third and fifth in the 200 butterfly, which was won by Florida’s Shaune Fraser in an NCAA-record time of 1 minute, 40.75 seconds.

Auburn took fourth, seventh and eighth in the 200 backstroke, which was dominated by Michigan’s Tyler Clary in 1:37.58, another NCAA record.

The Tigers won their eighth championship, one fewer than the Longhorns, who haven’t won a title since 2002. Texas was the runner-up for the second consecutive year after placing second to Arizona in 2008.

“They just keep rolling at you,” Texas coach Eddie Reese said of the Tigers. “They were phenomenal. If they would have been pretty good I would have hated it. But they were so good I just had to appreciate it.”

Nathan Adrian of California set an American record in the 100 freestyle with a time of 41.08 seconds, breaking his own mark of 41.43 set earlier this month.

In the 200 breaststroke, Georgia’s Neil Versfeld set a U.S. Open record in 1:51.40, breaking Brendan Hansen’s mark of 1:51.74 set with Longhorns Aquatics three years ago.

In the team race, Stanford (460.5 points), California (350) and Florida (324) rounded out the top five.