March 12, 2010

By Marty Gitlin
Special to

CANTON, Ohio -- Poolside humidity at the C.T. Branin Natatorium was not the only thing making Drury University men's and women's swimming coach Brian Reynolds sweat on Friday.

The teams from Springfield, Mo. were feeling the squeeze midway through the third session of the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships. Wayne State (Detroit) was closing in on their lead in the women's competition and University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio) was doing the same on the men's side.

The Panther women had scored 473 points, just 58 more than Wayne State. West Chester (Pa.) University of California-San Diego and Clarion (Pa.) lagged far behind.

Both the Drury men and women would have felt even more pressure heading into Saturday's critical session had their 800-yard freestyle relay teams not ended the night with first-place finishes.

Wayne State coach Sean Peters was seeing fantastic things from his female swimmers. Senior Ashley St. Andrew opened the evening by winning the 500 freestyle at 4:53.51, and then junior teammate Sara Franklin followed with a first-place performance in the 100 backstroke at 54.56.

Warrior junior Courtney Roberts completed the blitz by snagging the 100 breaststroke crown at 1:01.89. The time was a mere one-hundredth of a second off the NCAA Division II record set in 2003 by Rosanna Delurgio.

Roberts understood the dire circumstances facing her team, which needed her victory to remain within shouting distance of Drury. But even though she did not think much about that, she admitted that such situations never prevent her from performing her best.

"There's a lot of pressure as the defending champion (of the 100 breaststroke), but I like pressure," Roberts said. "It's nice to win for the team and for the team to do well, but I never let outside distractions affect me. I knew [teammate Ana Gonzalez Pena] and I could finish 1-2 in the event and we did."

Roberts swam with no elaborate strategy. It was just a matter of moving as quickly as possible.

"I just took it out as fast as I could and brought it home," she said. "My high school coach once told me to just sprint and that's what I do. I try to leave it all in the pool."

Speaking of awesome, so was UC-San Diego sophomore Alexandra Henley again. She snagged her second individual first-place finish of the meet by winning the women's 200 butterfly with a clocking of 2:00.30.

The Tritons, however, are not fighting for a team title. Both the men's and women's championships will be decided on Saturday. And you can bet that Reynolds will be sweating even more then.