March 20, 2010
By Mike Beas
Special to NCAA.com
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Once she realized history had just been made, Kateryna Fesenko kept her own personal celebration burner on low. No arms raised or top-of-the-lungs scream. Not even a northern turn of the mouth’s corners that could have been mistaken for a smile.
What cameras caught was a peace sign. Nothing fancy, just the index finger and its taller neighbor teaming to do their thing. All in all, pretty simple stuff considering the Indiana University swimmer had just secured three hearty slices of history.
Not only did the senior place first in the 200 backstroke on Saturday, the final day of the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, Fesenko held off three-time champion Gemma Spofforth of Florida with a new pool record time of 1 minute, 49.92 seconds at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center.
Spofforth holds the NCAA championship (1:49.11, March 2009) and NCAA (1:48.34, February 2009) records and was the defending champion. Spofford’s Gators won the D I championship on Saturday by 2.5 points over Stanford, 382-379.5. California was third with 363 points.
Furthermore and equally as impressive, the native of Ukraine breaks ground as IU’s first-ever NCAA women’s swimming titlist (three Hoosiers’ divers have placed first). Only after addressing members of the media was it made clear to Fesenko that when it comes to Indiana’s NCAA swim champions, she’s literally in a class by herself.
“When I came to the U.S. I didn’t know much about conference and NCAA championships, but in the last three years I’ve realized how important it is,” said Fesenko. “To represent IU is really important to me. Great coaches and great girls.”
One thing in Fesenko’s favor entering Saturday’s finals competition was a lack of intimidation regarding Spofforth, the measuring stick among backstrokers on the collegiate level.
“I’ve known this girl since I was 14. She’s a great swimmer and has been really, really fast the last several years,” said Fesenko. “It’s a great feeling knowing this time was faster than her. It’s always nice to race fast people, especially if you win the race.”