Pac-10 Men's Swimming Championships Day Three Recap
March 3, 2006
Five more individual champions were crowned on the third day of the Pac-10 Men's Swimming Championships this evening at the Weyerhaueser King County Aquatic Center. At night's end top-ranked Stanford, winner of the past 24 Pac-10 titles, remained in the lead, but No. 3 California drew within striking distance with a win in the night's final event, the 400 medley relay.
Heading into the final day of the championships, the Cardinal are on top with 600 points, followed by Cal's 539. Sixth-ranked Arizona is back in third with 370 points and No. 4 USC is close behind with 351.
USC senior Ous Mellouli picked up his second individual title of these championships and the seventh of his career by cruising to a win in the 400 individual medley in the evening's first final. Mellouli's time of 3:43.90 was more than two seconds faster than his closest competitor, Stanford's Mark Stephens, who touched the wall at 3:45.94. Mellouli and Stephens went one-two in the event for the second straight year. Mellouli is now a three-time champ of both the 400 IM and the 500 freestyle which he won on Thursday. His other individual crown came in the 1650 freestyle in 2004.
Another repeat winner was Cardinal junior Hongzhe Sun, who was victorious in the 100 backstroke a day after winning the 200 individual medley. Sun won in 46.79 seconds, however his win was the only title of the day for Stanford.
Perhaps the day's strongest performance was turned in by Arizona's Simon Burnett, who demonstrated the form that made him an NCAA Champion in the 200 freestyle in 2003 and 2005, winning the Pac-10 200 freestyle title in a time 1: 33.26. Despite his NCAA titles, this was the first career individual Pac-10 title for Burnett. The senior's time established a new Pac-10 Championships meet record, over a second faster than former Stanford swimmer Adam Messner's effort in 2000. Cal's Dominik Meichtry finished second with a time of 1: 34.31 that would have broken the meet record as well if not for Burnett's faster pace.
Burnett raced to the lead with a split of 21.67 seconds over the first 50 yards. Over the next 100 yards, Meichtry and third-place finisher Andy Grant drew closer, but Burnett again posted the fastest split over the final 50 yards to win easily.
'I knew the field was packed with good 500 swimmers like (Stanford's) Andy Grant and Danny Beal. All those guys are really good at the 500, so I knew I had to get out there because I didn't want to risk being left with them at the 100 and then them kicking away from me,' said Burnett. 'I just put myself out there to try and control the race from the front.'
It was a new feeling for Burnett, who is usually not at his strongest until the NCAA Championships, but that does not mean he cannot still improve.
'I've never been in this position for the NCAAs. This is the best that I've ever swam at the Pac-10 Championships,' Burnett said. 'It's my first individual Pac-10 title, so I think it puts me in a great place. Perhaps now I've put a little bit more pressure on myself. But I'm going to have to learn to deal with it and try and repeat (at NCAAs).'
The 100 butterfly was won by Burnett's teammate, Lyndon Ferns, who had finished second in the race last year. Ferns took the early lead with a 21.30 split in his first 50 yards, then held off Stanford's Ben Wildman-Tobriner and USC's Sam Masson, who both were slightly quicker on the final 50. Ferns won with a time of 46.43 in a loaded field that featured six different swimmers posting NCAA automatic qualifying times.
Cal senior Henrique Barbosa had a busy evening, first setting a new school record in winning the 100 breaststroke with a time of 52.90, then returning to the water soon after to swim the fastest breaststroke split in Cal's 400 medley relay win.
'Everything went perfect. I had a nice morning prelim and then in the final I did everything I expected to do. It's definitely one of the best accomplishments I've had,' said Barbosa, who likes his team's chances of overtaking the Cardinal on Saturday.
'Tomorrow's our best day because we're actually better in the 200s than in the 100 strokes,' Barbosa said. 'I think this is the closest we've ever been so far since I've been at Cal, so I think tomorrow if we win the relay we have a good chance.
In the 400 medley relay, Barbosa followed teammate David Russell, who led off with the second fastest backstroke time. Swimming third for the Golden Bears was Milorad Cavic who posted the best split in the butterfly, then Jonas Tilly anchored the relay win. Stanford's foursome of Hongzhe Sun, Paul Kornfeld, Jason Dunford, and Ben Wildman-Tobriner finished second. USC and Washington were third and fourth while the relay teams from Arizona and Arizona State were each disqualified for bad entries.
Saturday will mark the final day of competition, as conference champions will be crowned in the 1650 freestyle, 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, and 400 freestyle relay.
Team Scores Through Day Three
1. Stanford 600
2. California 539
3. Arizona 370
4. USC 351
5. Arizona State 225
6. Washington 117