Trojans Set For Pac-10 Championships

Feb. 28, 2005

Led by 2004 Olympic finalists Ous Mellouli and Larsen Jensen, the No. 9 USC men's swimming team competes at the 2005 Men's Swimming and Diving Pac-10 Championships Wednesday through Saturday (March 2-5) at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach, Calif. Follow along with live scoring HERE.

USC (4-3 overall, 2-2 in the Pac-10) is No. 9. Stanford is No. 2, California is No. 4, Arizona is No. 8. Arizona State and Washington are not ranked.

The diving portion of the Pac-10 Championships was held last week in conjunction with the women's competition and the USC men had the highest combined score of any men's diving unit with 142 points. Stanford was the next closest with 110. Senior Ray Vincent won his second career title on platform, adding a 2005 plaque to his one from 2003. His win made it three years in a row in the event for the Trojans at the Pac-10 Championships after sophomore Michael Hilde won it as a freshman in 2004. For his part, Hilde had a consistently strong meet this year, posting a pair of second-place finishes on 1- and 3-meter springboard before taking third on platform. Vincent was third on 3-meter and sixth on 1-meter while sophomore Kenny Jenkins was third on 1-meter, sixth on 3-meter and fifth on platform.

USC has won at least two conference titles every year since 1997 and won four or more titles in nine of the past 11 years ... The Trojans have owned the distance freestyle events since 2001 and haven`t lost the 500y free or 1650y free since 2000. Junior Ous Mellouli is the reigning Pac-10 champ in both events and will also defend his title in the 400y IM. He'll get all he can handle, however, from sophomore teammate Larsen Jensen, one of the top distance freestylers in the world who is shoring up his short-course work after a great 2004 long-course season...Sophomore Mihaly Flaskay was a Pac-10 champion in the 100y breaststroke as a freshman in 2003, but missed the 2004 season while training for the Olympics ... Senior Paul Fahey will be a factor in the 400y IM as well as the 200y IM ... Sophomores Sam Masson and Viktor Bodrogi are both strong in the fly and back events and figure to be USC's best bets in both specialties.

The Trojan men got off to a strong start with a convincing win over Texas in late October, 240.5-112.5. The Trojan men won 17 of 18 events, dominating from start to finish. The Trojans followed that with a sweep of the Arizona schools in November. USC trailed the Wildcats after the first half of the two-day meet, but rallied to beat Arizona, 182-170, and also rolled past the Sun Devils, 262-91, to improve to 3-0 in dual-meet action. Troy squared off against No. 6 Michigan on Jan. 4 and suffered its only loss of the season, 145-117. Because of inclement weather, the meet was raced in USC's Physical Education Building, the first meet in the facility since 1983. A meet at UC Santa Barnara on Jan. 8 was cancelled due to heavy rain, but USC did get its meet in at Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 15, a 158-108 win. The Trojans then traveled to the Bay Arean schools, falling to Stanford and California.

-- Junior Ous Mellouli's 3:41.32 in the 400y IM is the second-fastest time in the nation as is his 1:44.14 is second in the 200y IM. Both are NCAA automatic qualifying times. Only Florida's Ryan Lochte, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, has been faster this year. Mellouli's 4:15.43 in the 500y free is third, his 15:00.26 in the 1650y free is eighth and his 1:36.28 in the 200y free is 20th. Sophomore Larsen Jensen's 14:44.89 is the second-fastest mile in the country this year behind Georgia's Sebastian Rouault, while his 4:15.43 in the 500y free is tied with Mellouli for third best (both are NCAA A cuts). Senior co-captain Paul Fahey's 3:47.79 in the 400y IM is ninth in the country, his 1:58.8 in the 200y breast is 20th and Mihaly Flaskay has the eighth fastest time in the 100y breast (54.21). Sophomore Viktor Bodrogi is No. 20 with his 100y back (48.61) and 15th with his 200y fly (1:47.00). USC's 200y medley relay is the fourth fastest ranked unit in the country.

The USC men's team returns back junior Ous Mellouli (400m IM, 1500m Free) and seniors Paul Fahey (400m IM) and Ray Vincent (platform diving). The men also return 2003 All-American breaststroker Mihaly Flaskay (who did not attend USC in 2004 while training to qualify for the Olympics in his native Hungary) and sophomore Larsen Jensen, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist who skipped the second half of the 2004 season to train for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

USC's men's Olympians are led by Larsen Jensen, who was a silver medallist in the 1500m freestyle and took fourth in the 400m free. Junior Ous Mellouli, competing for Tunisia, was a finalist in the 400m IM and raced in the 1500m free (Mellouli, in fact, recently won gold in the 400m IM and a bronze in the 200m IM at the 2004 Short Course World Championships). Viktor Bodrogi and Gergely Meszaros (both competing for Hungary) also were in Athens on the men's side. The women's squad features three Trojans who competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Diver Blythe Hartley (competing for Canada) won bronze on the 10-meter synchronized platform and also reached the final of the 3-meter individual springboard. Sophomore Kalyn Keller was a finalist in the 800m freestyle (taking fourth) and also swam in the 400m free. Freshman Rhi Jeffrey won a gold medal in Athens as part of the 4x200m free relay (on the prelim swim).

USC will be without a handful of top swimmers from the 2004 squad, none bigger than Kaitlin Sandeno. Sandeno used a standout 2004 NCAA Championships as a junior (she won two titles and was second in another race) as a springboard to an eye-popping U.S. Olympic Trials (where she qualified for four races) and Olympic performance in Athens (where she won three medals). But she decided to turn pro before the Olympics and gave up her final year of eligibility at USC (though she still attends school at the university). Also gone on the women's side is one of the school's top butterflyers in Jana Krohn, top distance swimmer in Margie Pedder as well as All-American diver Nicci Fusaro. The men lost key backstroker and freestyler Trent Staley (a multi-Pac-10 finalist).

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