Yes He Can Hack It! Jensen Wins NCAA 500y Free Title

March 15, 2007

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Senior Larsen Jensen won his first NCAA title in the 500y free and the second of his career in dominating fashion, USC's 400y medley relay earned All-American honors and senior Sean Sussex broke a 30-year school record in the 50y free to lead a big first day for the Trojan men's swimming and diving team at the 2007 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships at the University Aquatic Center in Minneapolis on Thursday (March 15).

Jensen, who won the Pac-10 crown in the 500y free in February, was never challenged in the NCAA title race, winning in 4:09.80 to set a pool record and shatter the USC school standard, previously held by Ous Mellouli at 4:12.18. Jensen's time was just more than a second off the NCAA and American record (4:08.60)

A stalwart in the mile, Jensen's distance swimming used to overshadow his shorter distance events. But there is no hole in his game there any more. Jensen, fourth in the NCAA race last year, led start to finish. He opened more than a second lead after only 200 yards and slowly extended it throughout the race for more than a three-second win.

Jensen is the first Trojan to win the NCAA title in the 500y free since Erik Vendt did it in 2003. He will take a crack at the 200y free for the first time at the NCAAs on Friday and will swim for his second NCAA title in the 1650y free on Saturday.

Wrapping up the first day of finals in the 400y medley relay, the Trojan quartet of seniors Viktor Bodrogi, Mihaly Flaskay, Sam Masson and Sussex took seventh in 3:12.38. That same quartet qualified for the final with a season best of 3:10.59 in prelims. It marked the ninth time in the last 11 years USC swimmers have earned All-American honors in the 400y medley relay.

To lead off the meet in prelims, Sussex, senior Sam Masson, junior Richard Gosper and junior Bryce Elser qualified for the consolation final of the 200y free relay with a school-record swim of 1:18.82. The previous record with 1:18.85, set in 1991. In the consolation final, in the order of Sussex, Gosper, Elser and Masson, they took 13th in 1:18.98.

Also in prelims, Sussex broke Joe Bottom's 1977 USC record in the 50y free - the oldest record in the Trojan swimming book - with a sprint of 19.68. But in a fast field that saw an American record go down in one of the prelim heats, Sussex's time placed him 20th overall.

Sophomore Vanni Mangoni became the fourth fastest Trojan ever in the 200y IM prelims with his 1:46.35, but in a similarly fast field, he had to settle for 18th.

Senior divers Kenny Jenkins (14th, 314.55) and Michael Hilde (16th, 310.85) both scored individual points on the 1-meter springboard. For Hilde, it marked the third time he scored on 1-meter at the NCAAs and the eighth time in 10 NCAA events. It was Jenkins first time in the scoring column on that board. Both will compete in the 3-meter (Friday) and platform (Saturday).

Gosper was also 30th in the 50y free in 19.98.

USC was seventh after the first day with 60 points. Auburn was first with 187 and Arizona was second at 121.

The meet continues Friday and Saturday with prelims at 11 a.m. and finals at 7 p.m. (CDT).

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