Troy Wins First NCAA Relay Title In 25 Years!

March 29, 2002

Junior Erik Vendt won his second career NCAA title, this one in the 400y IM, while USC's 800y freestyle relay shattered an NCAA record en route to Troy's first relay title in 25 years to pace another strong day for the Trojans on the second day of the 2002 Men's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Georgia's Gabrielsen Center on Friday (March 29).

USC is in fourth after two of three days. Texas leads with 376 points, followed by Stanford (361), Auburn (252.5), USC (193) and Florida (190).

Troy's 800y free relay squad of junior Jeff Lee, senior Rodrigo Castro, senior Tamas Kerekjarto and sophomore Klete Keller decimated the field, winning in 6:17.35, well ahead of second-place Texas (6:23.78). The Trojans' winning time broke Texas' NCAA and U.S. Open record of 6:18.00 set in 2001. The swim also broke USC's 12-year old record of 6:22.99, set by Erik Ran, Erik Hochstein, Dave Wharton and Dan Jorgensen.

Lee set the tone for the race with a 1:35.30 leadoff. Castro swam second with a split of 1:34.68. Kerekjarto clocked in at 1:35.22 while Keller brought it home in 1:32.15. Lee's, Castro's and Keller's legs were all the best of the race while Kerekjarto's was second-best. USC last won a relay in 1977, when it won both the 400y and 800y free relays.

Vendt, who finished second in the 500y free on Thursday, won the 400y IM in 3:40.65, breaking his own school record by 0.33 (set at last year's NCAAs) and setting a pool record as well. (Vendt filled in for an injured Kerekjarto on USC's Pac-10 winning 800y free relay, but Kerekjarto was back in the lineup on Friday).

A silver medal winner in the 400m IM at the 2000 Olympics, Vendt had also finished second in the 400 IM at the NCAAs in in 2001 and 2000. The NCAA title compliments Vendt's title in the 1500m free as a freshman and marks Vendt's eighth time finishing no worse than third in any of his eight NCAA individual races. He is now one of only 19 Trojans to have won at least two NCAA titles.

Kerekjarto, who finalled in the 200y IM on Thursday, was fifth in the 400y IM in 3:46.14. He was sixth in the event at last year's NCAAs. In the prelims, he swam a personal-best 3:45.45.

Keller, who successfully defended his 500y free title last night, couldn't do the same with his 200y free title from last year, but still posted a strong showing by taking third in 1:35.42. It was only the second time he hasn't won an NCAA individual race in five tries.

Castro, eighth in the 200y free at the 2001 NCAAs, improved to fourth this year in 1:35.73, helping USC to a 3-4 finish in the race. He was 12th in the 500y free on Thursday.

Lee, seventh in the 500y free on Friday, reached his second finals in as many days and took fifth in the 100y fly in 46.90. Lee was seventh in the event last year.

Senior Mark Warkentin was 15th in the 400y IM (3:51.12).

USC's 200y medley relay team of sophomore Trent Staley, freshman Paul Fahey, sophomore Mike Gausman and senior Joel Everman finished eighth in the consolation final, 16th overall, in 1:33.10. In prelims, the team of Staley, Vendt, Lee and Castro went 1:29.59 to earn a second swim.

Other USC finishers were freshman Paul Fahey, 28th in the 400y IM (3:54.53), sophomore Mike Gausman, 36th in the 100y fly (48.59) and Staley, 25th in the 200y free (1:37.85). Troy did not have anyone entered in the 100y breast nor the 100y back.

The meet concludes Saturday (March 30). Prelims begin at 11 a.m. and finals start at 7 p.m. (EST).

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