Steven Is Again All-America

March 22, 2002

AUSTIN, Tex. - Oregon State's Birte Steven earned All-America honors for the second straight year Friday, swimming to 16th place in the 100-yard breaststroke at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at the Texas Aquatic Center. Steven, who swam 1 minute, 2.70 seconds in the finals, had owned the 18th-fastest time in the field entering the NCAA meet, the top 16 finishers are named All-America.

OSU junior Naya Higashijima finished 38th in the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:23.96. The Beavers were tied for 36th through Friday's events.

The meet concludes Saturday with the strongest events for Steven and Higashijima. Higashijima has the eight-fastest time in the field for the 200 butterfly, and Steven has the ninth-fastest time in the field for the 200 breaststroke.

'We just keep getting better every day, and we hope we can put it together physically Saturday,' OSU coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said. 'Both Birte and Naya are ready to punch one open Saturday, and that's something that's never been done at Oregon State.

'If we get two women in the finals, it will rack up some points for us. That would get us toward our ultimate goal of the top 25. We just have to have good swims Saturday morning, get in (the finals) at night, and anything's possible. Birte is already All-America, and we hope Naya joins her Saturday.'

On Friday, Steven swam a school-record time of 1 minute, 1.94 seconds in her preliminary heat, the 16th-fastest time of the morning. It was just .02 ahead of the 17th-place finisher, but that was enough to earn All-America and it broke Steven's OSU mark of 1:02.22, set March 1 at the Pacific-10 Championships.

'She missed it by .01 this year and made it by .02 this year,' Podkoscielny said. 'And she was a second faster this year - that's how much faster the meet is this year. Birte had a real nice race, she took it out the fastest I've ever seen her take it out. She's not a pure sprinter, and that's why we're excited about the 200 breaststroke on Saturday.'

Steven might have placed higher in the 100 breaststroke if not for suffering a twisted knee in warmups for the finals. After getting off to a slow start in the night race, Steven did manage to come on strong at the finish. Now OSU is waiting to see how Steven's knee responds to an evening of rest.

Steven had made All-America last season in the 200 breaststroke, placing 16th. She had placed 17th in the 100 breaststroke last season, just .01 of a second out of 16th place.

Higashijima is making her first NCAA Championships appearance, and will go into her best event on Saturday with the benefit of having raced twice in the big-meet atmosphere.

'It wasn't Naya's best swim, but it was a solid swim,' Podkoscielny said of Friday's 400 individual medley. 'We've told her that at this meet, at this level, it's not about times - it's about racing. We didn't really have hopes for her getting in the finals in those events (400 IM and Thursday's 500 freestyle), it was just about getting experience.'

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