Beavers Made A Splash In 2002

June 14, 2002

In his six years as Oregon State's women's swimming head coach, Mariusz Podkoscielny and his teams have had the goal of placing better than ninth in the Pacific-10 Conference Championships.

2002 was the year in which the Beavers met that goal, and made school history in the process.

The Beavers had their best finish at the Pacific-10 Championships in over a decade, earning seventh place. They also placed higher than any other OSU women's swimming team at the NCAA Championships by finishing 31st; the Beavers' Birte Steven and Naya Higashijima earned All-America honors.

'I think the season surpassed some of our expectations,' Podkoscielny said. 'I think this was by far the best season we've had at Oregon State since I've been here. It might be the best season here, period.'

The Beavers finished the regular season with a 7-5 overall dual meet record, and their seven-meet win streak was the third-longest in the history of the program. OSU also finished with a winning dual meet record for the third straight season.

Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach, Calif., was a record-setting site for the Beavers in 2001-02. Prior to OSU's Pac-10 success at the venue, Oregon State competed there in the Speedo Cup and set 12 school records in 11 events as it placed second in a 21-team field.

Oregon State returned to the Belmont Plaza Pool for the Pac-10 Championships and the Beavers placed seventh for their best finish since 1991. The Beavers had never broken the 300-point mark at a Pac-10 Championship but easily surpassed that total as the team scored 477 points and broke 10 school records in nine events.

Making school history did not stop there, however.

Sophomore Birte Steven earned All-American honors by placing 11th in the 200-yard breaststroke and 16th in the 100 breaststroke at the NCAA Championships. Steven became the first OSU swimmer to earn All-America honors twice in the same season three times in her career; she had placed 16th in the 200 breaststroke as a freshman.

Junior Naya Higashijima made her first trip to the NCAAs and earned All-America honors by placing 10th in the 200 butterfly. It was the first time that OSU had more than one swimmer earn All-America honors in the same season.

Behind the performances of Steven and Higashijima, Oregon State finished 31st in team competition, surpassing OSU's previous best finish of 35th in 1995.

'What is exciting is that we competed well, without a doubt, against the best Pac-10 competition in the history of this conference,' Podkoscielny said. 'And to go to NCAAs and swim in the fastest NCAAs in history was thrilling and exciting.

'What surpised me this year was how well we did against such a tough swim meet at the NCAAs. I didn't expect the NCAAs to be as competitive this year.'

As for the future of the program, Podkoscielny is already focused on next year. One goal already established is to maintain the success of the 2002 team and to begin to close the gap with the rest of the conference.

'We definitely want to keep getting better and our goal for next year will be to maintain and stay ahead of the Washington schools,' he said. 'I honestly don't think we are ready to challenge the next in line, which is Arizona State.

'We are talking about getting into the top six in swimming and diving. (OSU and the Washington schools are the only Pac-10 schools not fielding diving squads). Diving adds up to about 100 to 200 points for a team (in the Pac-10 meet) and that is not something you can make up very easily swimming-wise, and especially not against strong swimming schools.

' I'm pretty excited for next year. There are still a lot of question marks at some positions but everything is coming together.'

HEAD COACH MARIUSZ PODKOSCIELNY: Mariusz Podkoscielny completed his sixth season as head coach at Oregon State. Since he took over the Beaver program at the start of the 1996-97 season, Podkoscielny's teams have a dual meet record of 28-35 overall and 2-18 in the Pacific-10.

Podkoscielny, 33, is a 9-time All-American and 2-time Olympian. Prior to coming to OSU in the fall of 1996, Podkoscielny had been an assistant men's and women's coach at Arizona since 1993.

A native of Gdansk, Poland, Podkoscielny was a member of the Arizona swim team from 1988-92 and was one of the fastest distance swimmers in UA history. He was also on the Polish National Team from 1980-92 and competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

In June, 2002, Podkoscielny was honored as the OSU Female Sport Coach of the Year at the fourth annual Benny Awards.

JUNIOR ALL-AMERICAN NAYA HIGASHIJIMA: Naya Higashijima has led the Beavers in individual event victories in all 3 of her seasons at OSU, piling up 76 first-place finishes in dual meet and invitational competition. As a freshman, Higashijima won 21 races (plus 2 exhibition victories). In her sophomore season, she took first in 24 races (plus 2 exhibition), and as a junior she won her first 20 individual races to start the season and finished with 31 event wins (plus 2 exhibition victories).

Higashijima made her first trip to the NCAA Championships in 2002 as she qualified in the 500 freestyle, 400 individual medley and the 200 butterfly. She set a school record in the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly, and placed 10th in the 200 butterfly to gain her first All-American honor.

SOPHOMORE ALL-AMERICAN BIRTE STEVEN: The phrase 'first-ever' was commonly associated with Birte Steven after her performance at the 2002 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Steven became the first-ever OSU swimmer to earn All-America honors twice in the same meet with her 16th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke and her 11th- place finish in the 200 breaststroke. Combined with her 16th place finish at the 2001 NCAAs in the 200 breastroke, Steven is OSU's first-ever 3-time All-American.

Steven has 47 first-place finishes in dual meet and individual competition in her first 2 seasons at OSU. As a freshman, Steven shared team-high honors in individual event victories with Naya Higashijima at 24. In her sophomore season, Steven placed first in 23 races; Steven has also won 1 exhibition race in each season.

BEAVERS FACE TOP-FLIGHT SCHEDULE: This season, Oregon State competed against 6 teams ranked in the final CSCAA coaches poll: No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 California, No. 3 Arizona, No. 8 Southern California, No. 11 UCLA and No. 12 Arizona State.

STEVENS NATATORIUM: Oregon State swims its home meets at Stevens Natatorium on the OSU campus. The Beavers went 3-1 at home in dual meets this season and have an all-time record of 8-4 in the pool.

Stevens Natatorium is adjacent to Dixon Recreation Center, near Gill Coliseum. The pool opened in 1994 but was not outfitted for competition until prior to the 1999-2000 season.

OSU had scheduled its home meets at Corvallis' Osborn Aquatic Center since the community pool opened for the 1979-80 season. A few meets were still held on campus at Langton Pool.

OREGON STATE WINNING STREAK: Oregon State's 7-meet winning streak this season was the third-longest winning streak in the history of the program. Oregon State's longest winning streak is 11, a feat accomplished twice. The 1979-80 team won its last 8 meets and the 1980-81 season started with 3 wins. In 1981-82, OSU finished with 5 wins and the Beavers won their first 6 dual meets during the 1982-83 season.

OREGON STATE SEASON FINISHES: The Beavers finished this season with a 7-5 dual meet record, marking the third consecutive year that OSU finished with a winning record; that's the longest streak since a 4-year run above .500 from 1987-88 to 1990-91.

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: Oregon State's Naya Higashijima and Birte Steven each competed in 3 events at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Each event had preliminary heats with the top 16 advancing to race finals. A recap of their performances:

SWIMMER 	EVENT           	TIME      PLACEHigashijima	500 freestyle (prelim)	*4:51.74  41stSteven  	200 IM (prelim) 	2:04.37   53rdHigashijima	400 IM (prelim) 	4:23.96   38thSteven  	100 breast (prelim)	*1:01.94  Adv. to finalSteven  	100 breast (final) 	1:02.70   16thHigashijima	200 butterfly (prelim)	*1:57.72  Adv. to finalHigashijima	200 butterfly (final)	1:57.92   10thSteven  	200 breast (prelim)	2:13.85   Adv. to finalSteven  	200 breast (final)	*2:12.96  11th*-denotes school record

PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS: Oregon State scored a school record 477 points as it placed seventh at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships. The Beavers finished ahead of Washington (449.5) and Washington State (401.5) for their best finish since taking seventh in 1991. The 6 teams in front of the Beavers were all ranked in the top 12 nationally and finished in the top 17 at the NCAA Championships.

The Beavers broke 10 school records in nine events:

Naya Higashijima in the 1,650 freestyle, 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley, Birte Steven in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley, Suzanne Starkey in the 100 butterfly, Mari Embertson in the 400 individual medley, the 800 freestyle relay team of Kristin Huston, Higashijima, Steven and Paula Finlay, the 400 medley relay team of Starkey, Steven, Higashijima and Kristin Huston.

Embertson finished her 400 indivdiual medley preliminary race in 4:20.23 to break Higashijima's record of 4:26.56 set against San Jose State earlier in the season. Higashijima took the record right back, however, as she finished her preliminary race in 4:18.98. The pair made OSU history as Higashijima placed 7th and Embertson 8th in the event's final, giving the Beavers two finalists in an event for the first time ever.

OREGON STATE AND THE PAC-10: Stanford had the best finish of any Pacific-10 school at the NCAA Championships, coming in third. The Pac-10 had 7 of its 9 participating schools score points and all 7 of those finished in the top 31.

1. Auburn		4743. Stanford     	3014. Southern Cal 	300.55. Arizona		2918. California   	24510. Arizona State	13617. UCLA		6431. Oregon State	14

EARNING HIGH MARKS: Bonnie Renwick and Paula Finlay were selected to the Pacific-10's All-Academic first team for the second consecutive season, and Birte Steven was also picked as a member of the first team. Naya Higashijima and Jill Personius earned honorable mention. Steven was also named to the Verizon Women's Academic All-District VIII At-Large Third Team.

OREGON STATE SCHOOL RECORDS: When the season concluded, members of Oregon State's 2001-02 squad held 11 of the 14 individual event school records; the 2002 team also set 3 of the 5 relay marks. The Beavers rewrote the book this season, breaking school records 28 times in 13 different events. A look at the occasions when OSU set school marks this season:

1,000 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima,  10:09.39; Oct. 26 vs. Utah.400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Naya Higashijima,  4:26.56; Nov. 3 vs. San Jose State.400 MEDLEY RELAY: Suzanne Starkey, Birte Steven,  Naya Higashijima and Kristin Huston,  3:48.03; Nov. 29 at Speedo Cup.200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Paula Finlay,  2:04.54; Nov. 29 at Speedo Cup.500 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima,  4:54.86; Nov. 29 at Speedo Cup (prelims).500 FREESYLE: Naya Higashijima,  4:54.05; Nov. 29 at Speedo Cup (finals).200 FREESTYLE: Kristin Huston,  1:50.61; Nov. 30 at Speedo Cup.100 BUTTERFLY: Suzanne Starkey,  56.14; Nov. 30 at Speedo Cup.800 FREESTYLE RELAY: Naya Higashijima,  Paula Finlay, Birte Steven and Kristin Huston,  7:31.50; Nov. 30 at Speedo Cup.200 MEDLEY RELAY: Suzanne Starkey,  Birte Steven, Bonnie Renwick and Kristin Huston,  1:44.09; Nov. 30 at Speedo Cup.1,000 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima,  10:08.93; Dec. 1 at Speedo Cup.1,650 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima,  16:43.75; Dec. 1 at Speedo Cup.200 BUTTERFLY: Naya Higashijima,  2:00.32; Dec. 1 at Speedo Cup.200 BREASTROKE: Birte Steven,  2:13.95; Dec. 1 at Speedo Cup.200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Birte Steven,  2:04.01; Feb. 28 at Pac-10 Championships.400 MEDLEY RELAY: Suzanne Starkey,  Birte Steven, Naya Higashijima and Kristin Huston,  3:46.45; Feb. 28 at Pac-10 Championships.400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Mari Embertson,  4:20.23; Mar. 1 at Pac-10 Championships.400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Naya Higashijima,  4:18.98; Mar. 1 at Pac-10 Championships.100 BREASTSTROKE: Birte Steven,  1:02.22; Mar. 1 at Pac-10 Championships.100 BUTTERFLY: Suzanne Starkey,  55.77; Mar. 1 at Pac-10 Championships.800 FREESTYLE RELAY: Kristin Huston,  Naya Higashijima, Birte Steven, Paula Finlay,  7:27.56; Mar. 1 at Pac-10 Championships.1,650 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima,  16:34.60; Mar. 2 at Pac-10 Championships.200 BREASTSTROKE: Birte Steven,  2:12.99; Mar. 2 at Pac-10 Championships.200 BUTTERFLY: Naya Higashijima,  1:58.07; Mar. 2 at Pac-10 Championships.500 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima,  4:51.74; Mar. 21 at NCAA Championships.100 BREASTSTROKE: Birte Steven,  1:01.94; Mar. 22 at NCAA Championships.200 BREASTSTROKE: Birte Steven,  2:12.96; Mar. 23 at NCAA Championships.200 BUTTERFLY: Naya Higashijima,  1:57.72; Mar. 23 at NCAA Championships.

OREGON STATE EVENT WINNERS: This season Naya Higashijima topped OSU swimmers in individual event victories with 31 wins. The Beaver leaders through the completion of the 2001-2002 season (exhibition wins in parentheses, and not included in total):

1. Naya Higashijima	(2) 312. Birte Steven 	(1) 233. Kristin Huston	144. Suzanne Starkey	4(tie) Verena Hass	36. Paula Finlay 	27. Jessie Hong  	1(tie) Mari Embertson	1(tie) Bonnie Renwick	(1) 1(tie) Sheila Tehranchi	1

10 spots BEAVERS' PLACES ON SCHOOL TOP-10 LISTS: Members of OSU's 2001-2002 squad hold 61 of the 140 places on the Beavers' list of the top 10 performers in each individual event. Current Beaver swimmers with entries on the OSU all-time leaders list through the completion of the 2002 season:

1. Naya Higashijima 	82. Birte Steven  	73. Paula Finlay 	6(tie) Suzanne Starkey	65. Verena Haas  	56. Bonnie Renwick	4(tie) Kristin Huston	4(tie) Mari Embertson	49. Jessie Hong  	310. Kristin Martinec	2(tie) Jillian McMinn	2(tie) Dana Stoddard	2(tie) Sheila Tehranchi	2(tie) Grace Peterson	2(tie) Nicole Reynolds	216. Stephanie Chambers	1(tie) Jill Personius	1

WHERE THE BEAVERS RANK ON SCHOOL LISTS: Here are OSU's school records and where members of the 2001-2002 Beavers (listed in bold type) rank on the school's individual top-10 lists through the completion of the 2001-2002 season:

50 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	23.11	19942. Kristin Huston	23.40	20026. Suzanne Starkey	23.96	20028. Bonnie Renwick	24.36	2001100 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	50.64	19952. Kristin Huston	50.98	20027. Suzanne Starkey	52.42	200110. Bonnie Renwick	53.14	2002200 FREESTYLE1. Kristin Huston	1:50.61	20024. Naya Higashijima	1:52.89	20005. Birte Steven 	1:54.20	20029. Verena Haas  	1:54.93	200210. Paula Finlay	1:54.99	2000500 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	4:51.74	20023. Verena Haas  	5:00.50	20026. Birte Steven 	5:05.31	20018. Stephanie Chambers	5:06.67	20021,000 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	10:00.85 20022. Birte Steven 	10:19.01 20025. Verena Haas  	10:25.31 20026. Grace Peterson	10:26.76 20027. Jillian McMinn	10:38.50 20009. Dana Stoddard	10:44.56 19991,650 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima	16:34.60 20023. Verena Haas  	17:10.65 20025. Grace Peterson	17:16.71 20027. Dana Stoddard	17:35.08 19999. Jill Personius	17:45.61 200110. Jill McMinn 	17:51.30 2000100 BACKSTROKE1. Suzanne Starkey	57.15	20016. Bonnie Renwick	58.35	20028. Kristin Huston	59.37	2002200 BACKSTROKE1. Christy Ryerson	2:03.41	19944. Paula Finlay 	2:05.45	20015. Suzanne Starkey	2:05.93	20017. Jessie Hong  	2:06.59	2002100 BUTTERFLY1. Suzanne Starkey	55.77	20022. Bonnie Renwick	56.29	20023. Naya Higashijima	57.17	20014. Kristin Martinec	57.20	1999200 BUTTERFLY1. Naya Higashijima	1:57.72	20022. Suzanne Starkey	2:04.54	20023. Verena Haas  	2:05.46	20027. Kristin Martinec	2:09.34	1999100 BREASTSTROKE1. Birte Steven 	1:01.94	20022. Paula Finlay 	1:03.88	20024. Sheila Tehranchi	1:06.26	20015. Mari Embertson	1:06.38	20029. Nicole Reynolds	1:07.45	2002200 BREASTSTROKE1. Birte Steven 	2:12.96	20022. Paula Finlay 	2:16.61	20023. Mari Embertson	2:20.77	20025. Sheila Tehranchi	2:21.17	20018. Nicole Reynolds	2:23.87	2002200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Birte Steven 	2:04.01	20022. Paula Finlay 	2:04.54	20023. Mari Embertson	2:06.56	20027. Jessie Hong  	2:08.39	20028. Naya Higashijima	2:08.40	2002400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Naya Higashijima	4:18.98	20022. Mari Embertson	4:20.23	20023. Birte Steven 	4:21.54	20025. Paula Finlay 	4:28.30	20016. Jessie Hong  	4:28.31	2002
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