March 13, 2010

By Marty Gitlin
Special to NCAA.com

CANTON, Ohio -- The dedication and skill required to perform well enough to make just one trip to a first-place podium is impressive.

But to win two titles? Even three? It needs to be incredible.

That's why few athletes at the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships win multiple championship medals. And that's why those who did it three times at C.T. Branin Natatorium this weekend are particularly lauded.

One was Wayne State (Detroit) senior Ashley St. Andrew, who placed first in the women's 1,000-yard freestyle (9 minutes, 52.4 seconds), 500 freestyle (4:53.51) and 1,650 freestyle (16:35.98). The other was West Chester (Pa.) senior Jackie Borkowski, who won the women's 50-yard freestyle (22.83), 200 freestyle (1:49.31) and 100 freestyle (49.77) to sweep the sprints.

It might be assumed that if a sprinter is strong in one event, she will be strong in all of them. But Borkowski disagrees, especially in regard to the 200.

"It's kind of hard to be good in all three," she said following Saturday's 100 freestyle triumph. "You're so used to being on the blocks and ready to go, but in the 200 you have to pace yourself. I got lucky in the 200 (Thursday night) because I took it out really fast and I tired in the last 100. I kind of lucked out."

Borkowski said there is something special about being a sprinter. She feels that it suits her perfectly and is quick to admit that she could never be a versatile and successful distance swimmer.

"When I do a distance swim," she said, "I hurt in places I never hurt in doing sprint events. If I had to do three distance events, I'd be so sore I wouldn't know what to do."

Two-time champions Alexandra Henley (University of California-San Diego) and Drury (Springfield, Mo.) University's Jun Han Kim knew what to do. The former took first in the women's 400 individual medley (4:18.71) and 200 butterfly (2:00.30) while the latter won the men's 200 IM (1:48.18) and 200 Butterfly (1:48.89).

Drury swimming coach Brian Reynolds suggested that it's tougher for those who cross-stroke to win multiple championships because of the varied skills required.

Henley isn't so sure.

"Any part of swimming is hard," she said. "Any time you go up on those blocks you have to be prepared to go really fast. Yeah, it's tough to [cross-stroke], but sports in general is tough."

Does it take particularly strong dedication to thrive in multiple events?

"I don't think the word is 'dedication,' " she said. "I think it's 'determination.' While the team is swimming in duals, I'll swim with the distance swimmers some days, I'll swim the [butterfly or backstroke] other days and I'll swim the IM on other days."

Henley was particularly gratified to win the 200 individual medley after placing second a year ago. And though she failed to win the 200 backstroke, she achieved her goal of swimming it under two minutes. Had won it, Henley would have joined St. Andrew and Borkowski as three-time champions.