Keller Wins 500 Free At NCAA Championships

March 28, 2002

Sophomore Klete Keller defended his NCAA title in the 500y free while junior teammate Erik Vendt finished second in the event to highlight USC's efforts on the first day of the 2002 Men's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Georgia's Gabrielsen Center on Thursday.

USC is in sixth after the first day. Texas leads with 163 points, followed by Stanford (143), Arizona (104), Florida (91), Auburn (83.5) and USC (70).

Keller broke the USC record and the Gabrielsen Center pool record with a winning time of 4:12.83. The Trojan record he broke belonged to Mike O'Brien, who swam a 4:13.06 in 1988. Keller's title is his third NCAA crown of his career, tying him with William Craig for eighth-most ever on USC's career NCAA title chart.

'I changed my strategy a little,' Keller said. 'I didn't think I'd go out fast, but decided to this morning. People weren't expecting it. I'm in shape but it was still tough tonight I like to take it out easy so I can bring it home fast, but I thought I'd switch it up tonight.'

Vendt, third in the 500y free at last years NCAAs, finished second in 4:13.99, becoming the third fastest Trojan ever in the event, behind Keller and O'Brien. In seven career NCAA races, Vendt has never finished lower than third.

Said Vendt: 'We've been training partners all year long and have been duking it out in practice. He tried a new race plan tonight. It not only surprised the field but surprised me. His race plan definitely worked tonight. If I had to lose to anybody, I'd rather it be Klete.'

Junior Jeff Lee, competing in his first NCAA 500y free final of his career, finished seventh in 4:19.07. Senior Rodrigo Castro swam in the consolation finals of the event, taking fourth (12th overall) in 4:20.94.

Senior Tamas Terekjarto, who missed the 2002 Pac-10 Championships after suffering an injury during warm-ups on the first day, returned to competition in fine style, finishing third in the 200y IM (1:45.56). He was fourth in the event last year at NCAAs and won the consolation final heat of the event in 2000.

'We don't have the biggest team and our relays might not be as strong as some other teams, which doesn't bode well for the team competition, but in my opinion, we have the best individual strength here,' Vendt said. 'We're swimming well. We had a setback in the relay, but came back strong tonight.'

Other USC finishers on the day were senior Mark Warkentin, 18th in the 500y free (4:22.76), sophomore Trent Staley, 20th in the 500y free (4:23.21), senior Joel Everman, 30th in the 500y free (4:27.04), sophomore Mike Gausman, 38th in the 200y IM (1:50.07) and freshman Paul Fahey, 42nd in the 200y IM (1:50.77).

USC's 400y medley relay was disqualified in prelims. USC did not have anyone entered in the 50y free, 200y free relay or the 1-meter diving.

The championships continue Friday (March 29) and Saturday (March 30). Prelims begin at 11 a.m. (EST) and finals start at 7 p.m. (EST) both days.

Leaders After Day One1. Texas 1632. Stanford 1433. Arizona 1044. Florida 915. Auburn 83.56. USC 707. Cal 678. Minnesota 64.59. Tennessee 5710. Virginia 52

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