March 19, 2010

By Mike Beas
Special to NCAA.com

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Sandwiched in 140 minutes of time Friday night were eight events responsible for further disconnecting contenders from pretenders at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championships.

By the time droplets from the final splash hit the poolside tile at Purdue University's Boilermaker Aquatic Center, Stanford had maintained the inside track to the 2010 team championship. Barely.

Powered by victories from Julia Smit and Elaine Breeden, the Cardinal enter Saturday's remaining seven events with 266.5 points compared to 262.5 for Georgia, the nation's No. 1-ranked team. In third is Arizona (259.5) with the Wildcats only 3.5 points up on defending national champion California.

Add Florida (236) and Texas A&M (216) to the equation and one sees why every start, stroke, flip and finish are so imperative during Saturday's competition.

In the 400 individual medley, Stanford's Smit did what Smit does, which is win. The senior smashed the pool record she set earlier in the day by nearly four seconds with a 4:00.90 to come in ahead of Florida's Teresa Crippen (4:02.91) and USC's Katinka Hosszu (4:03.65).

"It was definitely one of my goals coming into the meet. I wanted to defend my title that I had gotten the last two years," said Smit. "It's really important for me just to get the points for the team. It's a really close race for the title."

A short time later, Breeden, a senior, captured the 100 butterfly in 51.43 seconds to tack 20 more points onto Stanford's total while breaking the pool standard of 51.44 set by Louisville's Rachel Komisarz in 2007. Breeden returns to the pool on Saturday in an attempt to capture her third NCAA title in the 200 butterfly in four years.

"Stanford started off really strong as a team, and after watching Julia win her race I just knew that it was my time and I needed to follow her lead," said Breeden. "Rachel Komisarz and I go way back and we have been racing all of the time. To get her pool record is really an honor because she is an outstanding swimmer. It was a lot of fun."

Packing the most suspense was the finish between Georgia teammates Allison Schmitt and Morgan Scroggy in the 200 freestyle. Schmitt came through, touching the wall at 1:42.84 compared to Scroggy's 1:42.94. This event proved huge for the Bulldogs with 59 points compiled as Megan Romano took fourth and Chelsea Nauta 10th.

Georgia won Friday's final event, the 800 freestyle relay, as Scroggy, Romano, Nauta and Schmitt finished in with a time of 6:55.61. Minnesota's Kelci Bryant produced 415.50 points to hold off Houston's Anastasia Pozdniakova (406.45) in 3-meter diving.

"It was really exciting to be part of the relay team, because going into the SEC Meet I didn't know whether I was going to be a part of the relay team," said Georgia's Romano. "Being a part of the relay was really exciting. Getting the pool record was great. I went a personal-best split and that was really exciting. Overall, I am really happy at how tonight went."

Totally dominant in her specialty was Arizona's Annie Chandler in the 100 breaststroke. Chandler's 58.06 established a new NCAA, NCAA Meet and pool standard, while Ashley Danner of George Mason placed second at 59.29. In her initial event of the evening, the 200 medley relay, Chandler joinced forces with Ana Agy, Erin Campbell and Justine Schluntz to post a winning time of 1:35.75.

"It's hard to take it all in at once," Chandler said. "It's been my goal to win since my freshman year, and over the past four years I have always gone at least a second and a half faster on my relay splits in the 400 medley relay. It's taken me until this year to be able to swim the race like I swim it in the relay, relaxed. It's taken me four years to find that and it's phenomenal."

Friday's preliminaries earlier in the day produced five facility records, the most convincing being Schmitt's 1:43.29 performance in the 200 free, a time good enough to break the 2005 standard set by former Georgia standout Mary DeScenza.

Meanwhile, in the 200 medley relay, Arizona behind Schluntz, Chandler, Campbell and Emma Darlington was timed at 1:36.61; Chandler's winning 58.97 in the 100 breaststroke was also a new pool record.

Smit in the 400 IM (4:04.41) and Pozdniakova in 3-meter diving (390.10 points) were records in Boilermaker Aquatic Center, opened in 2001.