Kov�cs Wins 200y Breast At Pac-10 Championships, Team Places Sixth

March 2, 2002

LONG BEACH, Calif. - While the team finished sixth for the seventh straight season, Arizona State freshman �gnes Kov�cs won the 200-yard breaststroke in the final day of the women's Pac-10 Swimming Championships at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, Calif., Saturday, earning ASU's first individual conference title since 1995.

National No. 1 Stanford won the conference team crown with a three-day total of 1,320.5 points, followed respectively by USC (1,197.5), Arizona (1,151.5), California (1,096), UCLA (1,064), ASU (818.5), Oregon State (477), Washington (449.5) and Washington State (401.5). The Sun Devils, who are ranked 12th in the latest national poll, finished only behind teams that they also trail in the national rankings.

Having finished runner-up yesterday in the 100y breast and 400y individual medley, Kov�cs swam out of lane four in the championship final of the 200y breast, where she was flanked by teammate Riley Mants in lane three and Stanford's Tara Kirk in lane five. While Kirk -- who yesterday won the conference title in the 100y breast -- finished the race in 2:07.79, Kov�cs touched the wall just four-hundredths of a second ahead in 2:07.75. In addition to improving her own school record from 2:07.98, Kov�cs eclipsed Kirk's conference and meet record time of 2:08.54 (2001) by nearly a second.

Mants meanwhile, who with a prelim time of 2:13.06 recorded her fastest 200y breast in three seasons just in qualifying for the championship final, placed fifth in a personal-best time of 2:12.04. Kov�cs and Beata Kaszuba (2:09.71, 1995) are the only swimmers ahead of Mants on ASU's all-time 200y breast list.

ASU's next strongest event of the day was the 1650y freestyle, where sophomore Brooke Townsend became the second-fastest swimmer in school history with a second-place 16:23.07, despite finishing well off the victorious 16:08.46 pace of Stanford's Jessica Foschi. ASU senior Amanda Stanford placed fifth in a personal-best 16:29.67, but failed to improve upon her status as ASU's seventh-fastest swimmer all-time in the event. Further back, junior Katie Titcomb and sophomore Melissa Bartlett finished 14th and 15th for ASU in personal best times of 16:58.54 and 17:00.88, respectively.

Sarah Baham continued to have a fantastic final conference meet, placing third in the 200y butterfly. Just one day after the senior improved her school record time in a runner-up finish in the 100y fly, Baham demolished her personal best in the 200y fly, improving upon her 2000 effort of 1:58.22 with a finals effort of 1:56.81, Saturday. Baham and Betsi Hugh (1:59.74, 1993) are the only Sun Devils ever to break the 2:00 barrier. Swimming 2:05.78 in the consolation final, sophomore Florence Mauro placed 16th in the event. The event title went to Stanford's Shelly Ripple, who established a meet record in 1:53.50.

Swimming the opening and closing legs, respectively, both Baham and Mauro contributed to ASU's fifth-place finish in the 400y free relay. Getting help from junior Claire Hedenskog and freshman Florencia Szigeti, the Sun Devil foursome became the second-fastest 400y free relay team in school history, with a time of 3:22.48, behind only the school record of 3:22.03 that was established earlier this season.

Other event finals held Saturday were the 100y free and 200y backstroke. The Sun Devils fared better in the former, with Hedenskog placing 11th in 50.74 and Szigeti winning the bonus final in 50.73 to take 17th overall. In the 200y back, freshman Kari Wilcox's 2:02.37 performance led ASU with a 22nd-place finish.

Back in Tucson, Ariz., the Pac-10 diving championships for both women and men concluded at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center on the University of Arizona campus. In Saturday's action, sophomore Gordon Blukis led the ASU men with a fourth-place finish in the platform dive behind a finals score of 463.30. Blukis was the only Sun Devil diver to qualify for platform finals. Natalie Burgess led the women, scoring 296.45 points to place 16th.

Although contested in an alternate location, diving scores are figured into the team totals of the Pac-10 swimming championships to determine conference meet finishes. From here, ASU divers will attempt to qualify for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships in Stanford, Calif., March 14-16.

The men's Pac-10 swimming championships are scheduled for March 7-9, also in Long Beach, Calif. The women's NCAA swimming and diving championships are March 21-23 in College Station, Texas. The men's national championship meet runs from March 28-30 in Athens, Ga.

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