Trojans In Fifth After Day Two At NCAA Championships

March 28, 2003

Austin, Texas - Seniors Erik Vendt and Jeff Lee and freshmen Ous Mellouli and Mihaly Flaskay each made championship final appearances and two Trojan relays also posted top 8 finishes on a strong second evening at the 2003 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships at Texas in Austin on Friday (March 28).

USC moved up to fifth after the second day with 190 points, three points off its total after two days last season. Auburn leads with 449 points and is followed by Texas (282), Stanford (272), Cal (238), USC (190) and Florida (171). The Trojans rise to fifth place has been a team effort as 11 of USC's 13 competitors have contributed points either individually or on relays.

Vendt, the defending champion in the 400y IM who won the 500y free on Thursday, was edged at the wall in his bid to repeat by Georgia sophomore Robert Margalis. Vendt, shooting for his fifth career NCAA title, finished in a USC record 3:39.95, but was out-touched on the final reach by Margalis (3:39.92), who overcame Vendt in the final 25 yards. Margalis, a 2001 U.S. World Championship team member, was second to Vendt a year ago.

Vendt trailed after the opening 100 yards of the fly but took the lead after 100 yards of the back and extended his advantage after 100 yards in the breast. But Margalis, a strong middle distance freestyler, cut into the lead after 50 yards of free and the two were virtually deadlocked as they began the sprint to the finish. Vendt now has three career second-place finishes in the 400 medley in addition to his win last year.

Overshadowed by the excitement of the finish was Mellouli, who swam a lifetime best 3:43.10 to take fourth place after finishing third in the 500y free on Thursday. Mellouli became the third fastest ever in the event, behind Vendt and David Wharton. Sophomore Paul Fahey, who qualified for the last spot of the consolation finals of the 400y IM in prelims, won the race in the evening in 3:48.20.

'What can you say when Erik swims the third-fastest time in NCAA history and loses by three hundredths of a second. It's like a carbon copy of last summer,' said USC Coach Mark Schubert, referring to when Vendt lost to Michael Phelps by a hair in the 400m IM at the U.S. Summer Nationals with both swimmers going under the world record time. 'Margalis just swam a great race. Not too many people run down Erik Vendt. I think Erik will bounce back tomorrow and do something special (in the 1650y free).

'We had some good performances today. Paul Fahey stepped up in the consolation of the 400y IM. Ous has been doing a great job for his first meet. Trent Staley showed me a lot on the (800y) relay. There's a lot of pressure on that relay because we take so much pride in it and he and Ous both did well for their first time swimming it. And Mihaly Flaskay swam really well today, too.

'I don't think finishing fourth is out of the question, but to do it, we need to be big in the morning. We need everyone to step up tomorrow.'

Flaskay, the Pac-10 champion in the 100y breast, broke the USC record in the event, finishing third in the finals, swimming a 53.23. He broke Ryosuke Imai's mark of 53.34 set at the 2001 NCAAs.

Lee had a big day of his own, reaching the finals of the 200y free and swimming on two All-American relays. Lee qualified seventh in the 200y free in prelims and finished in the same place in the championship finals, swimming a 1:35.77. It was his first final appearance in the event since his freshman season. He raised his career All-American total to 15.

Lee led off USC's 800y free relay that finished fifth in 6:25.54. He was followed by Mellouli, Staley and Vendt as the team finished in 6:25.54.

USC's 200y medley relay of junior Jordie Proffitt, Flaskay, Lee and sophomore Mike Stoller finished seventh in the championships finals in 1:27.54, a tenth of a second off of the school record of 1:27.44, set by the same foursome a few weeks ago at the Pac-10 Championships.

Fahey scored his first individual points at the NCAAs, winning the consolation final of the 400y IM in 3:48.20. He was 28th in the event last year.

USC had three swimmers in the 100y fly, but none qualified for a second race. Junior J.D. Abercrombie was 23rd in 47.84, junior Mike Gausman was 26th in 48.17 and David Ringe was 37th in 48.65. Other USC finishers included Proffitt in the 100y back (49.35), Staley (200y free, 1:37.65, 27th) and senior Erik Tolmachoff (200y free, 42nd, 1:39.32). Sophomore Ray Vincent finished 34th in the 3-meter springboard (248.80).

Saturday's prelims begin at 11 a.m. and finals are at 7 p.m. Both times are CST.

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