March 13, 2010

By Marty Gitlin
Special to

CANTON, Ohio -- They stood in a block about 20 strong adjacent to the C.T Branin Natatorium pool. They clapped to the music blaring from speakers. They cheered the latest of many triumphs from their teammates. They shouted "DU! DU! DU!"

They were the Drury University (Springfield, Mo.) swimmers and they had every right to be thrilled Saturday night. Both the men's and women's team from the Springfield, Mo., school were in the process of each capturing 2010 NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships.

Not that it was a foreign experience. It marked the sixth consecutive crown for the Drury men, who collected 538 points to beat out Incarnate Word (San Antonio) with 403 points and Wayne State (Detroit) with 343. The Panther women, meanwhile, snagged their third in four years after scoring 657 points to edge Wayne State (531) and University of California-San Diego (318).

One might assume Drury coach Brian Reynolds figured from the season's start that his perennial champion men would emerge with another title, but that wasn't necessarily so.

The majority of the points racked up by his 2008-09 team were scored by seniors. This year, freshmen distance swimmer Chris Jacobsen and versatile sophomore Jun Han Kim, who won both the 200 individual medley and 200 butterfly, picked up the slack and ushered what could be a new era of Drury dominance.

"I knew at the beginning of the year a big issue for us was going to be whether we could quickly develop freshmen to take over roles and continue to make progress with the sophomores and juniors," Reynolds said. "The kids love the challenge of coming on to this team and playing such a big part of maintaining our tradition."

Kim said it was talent and camaraderie that translated into championships for both the men and women.

"The main thing is that we bonded with each other and pulled for each other," he said. "If we just trained by ourselves it wasn't going to happen because there wouldn't have been any motivation. We were inspired by our teammates. And it wasn't just the men's. Our men and women train together and we're a family."

The Panthers arrived on Saturday with a significant, but not overwhelming, lead. But their preliminary runs placed 10 women and five men in the finals, which all but wrapped up the crown.

Just to make sure, they performed brilliantly in the evening session. Jacobsen placed first in the men's 1,650 freestyle, Yuan Qing Li did the same in the women's 200 backstroke, and the women's 400 freestyle relay team also triumphed.

Considering Drury's tremendous showing, placing second had to be considered a victory. Incarnate Word coach Phil Davis praised his men's team for doing just that.

"I believe we shocked a lot of people here," said Davis. "But we expect to compete against anyone and hold our own. We're going to try to take home the big trophy next year."

A number of swimmers and divers not wearing Drury uniforms also performed well. Among them was Wayne State distance swimmer Ashley St. Andrew, who snagged her third first-place finish by winning the 1,650 freestyle at 16:35.98, about 23 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Erin Dolan of Drury.

The highlight for West Chester (Pa.) was certainly sprinter Jackie Borkowski, who also completed a three-event sweep with a 49.77 in the 100 freestyle. Meanwhile, Clarion (Pa.) University's Logan Pearsall claimed both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving championships.

The individual championships change every year. The team titles, however, generally end of in the trophy case at Drury University.