Steven, Higashijima Set For Swimming Championships

March 18, 2003


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Oregon State at NCAA Championships; Auburn, Alab.


Birte Steven in 200 individual medley; Naya Higashijima in 500 freestyleSession I (preliminaries) at 9 a.m. PST; Session II (finals) at 5 p.m. PST


Birte Steven in 100 breaststroke; Naya Higashijima in 400 individual medleySession I (preliminaries) at 9 a.m. PST; Session II (finals) at 5 p.m. PST


Birte Steven in 200 breaststroke; Naya Higashijima in 200 butterflySession I (preliminaries) at 9 a.m. PST; Session II (finals) at 5 p.m. PST

Oregon State's Birte Steven and Naya Higashijima will both try to repeat as All-Americans this week when they each compete in three events at the 2003 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving and Championships. The meet will be Thursday through Saturday in Auburn, Alab.; the OSU contingent arrived there Tuesday.

Steven and Higashijima have been preparing for the meet since the Pacific-10 Conference Championships concluded March 1. Steven will compete in the 200-yard individual medley on Thursday, the 100 breaststroke on Friday and the 200 breaststroke on Saturday; Higashijima will swim the 500 freestyle on Thursday, the 400 individual medley on Friday and the 200 butterfly on Saturday.

'They've both been to the NCAAs before, so they know what it takes physically and mentally,' Oregon State head coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said. 'We want to improve and get better in team competition. The girls have their individual goals and, if they do well, we might be in the top 25.'

This will be Steven's third trip to the NCAAs and Higashijima's second. Earning All-America honors takes a top-16 finish in an event, and both accomplished that in 2002.

Steven placed 11th in the 200-yard breaststroke and 16th in the 100 breaststroke last year. Steven finished 16th in the 200 breaststroke in 2001; she is Oregon State's only three-time All-American in women's swimming.

Higashijima also competed in the 500 freestyle, 400 individual medley and 200 butterfly at last year's meet. She finished 10th in the 200 butterfly to gain her first All-America honor.

Steven and Higashijima earned Oregon State a tie for 31st place in the team competition. That was the Beavers' highest-ever finish at the national meet, and having a teammate along played a role.

'Going together helps them at every level,' Podkoscielny said. 'Being together, rooming together and being behind each other offsets some of the tension. They train together and know each other well.'

Both swimmers met qualifying standards with their performances at the Husky Invitational in early December. Steven qualified in the 100 breaststroke (1 minute, 1.68 seconds), 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. The junior improved her times in the 200 breaststroke (2:11.45) and 200 individual medley (2:03.53) at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships.

Higashijima will compete in the 200 butterfly, 400 individual medley and 500 freestyle (4:50.76). Higashijima also qualified in the 1,650 freestyle but will not compete in the event, which is the same day as the 200 butterfly. The senior lowered her season-best times in the 200 butterfly (1:58.07), 400 individual medley (4:19.94) and 1,650 freestyle at the Pacific-10 Championships.

OREGON STATE AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSIHPS: Oregon State tied for 31st at the 2002 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships for its best-ever placing. The Beavers tied for 45th in 2001, tied for 35th in 1995, and tied for 38th in 1994.

OSU FINISHES EIGHTH AT PACIFIC-10 CHAMPIONSHIPS: Oregon State scored a school-record 544 points as it finished eighth at the Pacific-10 Championships on Feb. 27-March 1 at Federal Way, Wash. The Beavers were 34.5 points behind Washington for seventh place.

'We knew going into the meet that it would be a close race for seventh,' Oregon State head coach Mariusz Podkoscielny said. 'Washington had a great meet and so did we. It was a fun Pac-10 meet with great competition.'

The Beavers set 10 school records in 9 events, including 2 of Oregon State's 3 oldest records. Ausra Pacebutaite broke Christy Ryerson's 200 backstroke record from 1994, which was tied for the longest-standing record at Oregon State. Kristin Huston, Pacebutaite, Christina Kinney and Birte Steven broke the school's 400 freestyle relay record set in 1995. Current Oregon State swimmers now have top times in 15 of the 17 events.

Birte Steven had the highest individual finish ever for an OSU swimmer at the meet when she took third in the 200 breaststroke. Last year, Naya Higashijima and Mari Embertson had both finished in the top 8 in the 400 individual medley, marking the first time that OSU had 2 swimmers in the championship final. The two duplicated that again this year, with Higashijima finishing sixth and Embertson seventh.

'Our goal was to finish seventh, but we showed a lot of character and had a very successful meet,' said Podkoscielny, whose team bettered the 2002 team's point mark of 477. 'I'm very proud of our seniors for their outstanding finish and leadership. It was a bittersweet situation watching them compete in their final Pac-10 Championships.'

HEAD COACH MARIUSZ PODKOSCIELNY: Mariusz Podkoscielny is now in his seventh season as head coach at Oregon State, having turned the program around since arriving prior to the 1996-97 season. Under his leadership, the Beavers have posted 4 straight winning dual meet seasons, going 33-16 for a .670 winning percentage since the start of the 1999-2000 season.

Since Podkoscielny took over the Beaver program, his teams have a dual meet record of 40-38 overall and 4-21 in the Pacific-10.

Podkoscielny, 34, is a 9-time All-American and 2-time Olympian. Prior to coming to OSU in the fall of 1996, Podkoscielny had been an assistant men's and women's coach at Arizona since 1993.

A native of Gdansk, Poland, Podkoscielny was a member of the Arizona swim team from 1988-92 and was one of the fastest distance swimmers in UA history. He was also on the Polish National Team from 1980-92 and competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

In June, 2002, Podkoscielny was honored as the OSU Female Sport Coach of the Year at the fourth annual Benny Awards.

SENIOR ALL-AMERICAN NAYA HIGASHIJIMA: Naya Higashijima has led the Beavers in individual event victories in all 4 of her seasons at OSU, and in her career has 107 first-place finishes in dual meet and invitational competition. So far this season, Higashijima has a team-high 31 wins. As a freshman, she won 21 races, as a sophomore she won 24 and as a junior 31, including her first 20 individual races to start the season.

Higashijima made her first trip to the NCAA Championships in 2002 as she qualified in the 500-yard freestyle, 400 individual medley and the 200 butterfly. She set a school record in the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly, and placed 10th in the 200 butterfly to gain her first All-American honor.

JUNIOR ALL-AMERICAN BIRTE STEVEN: The phrase 'first-ever' was commonly associated with Birte Steven after her performance at the 2002 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

Steven became the first-ever OSU swimmer to earn All-America honors twice in the same meet with her 16th-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke and her 11th-place finish in the 200 breaststroke. Combined with her 16th-place finish at the 2001 NCAAs in the 200 breastroke, Steven is OSU's first-ever 3-time All-American.

Steven has 74 first-place finishes in dual meet and individual competition in her career at OSU. This season, Steven has 27 wins. As a freshman, Steven shared team-high honors in individual event victories with Naya Higashijima at 24 scoring wins. In her sophomore season, Steven placed first in 23 races.

OREGON STATE RECEIVES VOTES IN NATIONAL POLL: Oregon State received votes in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Top 25 poll released Jan. 16; they did not receive votes in the Jan. 30, Feb. 13, or Feb. 27 polls. The Beavers first received votes in the Dec. 10 poll; it is believed to have been the first time OSU ever received votes in the national women's swimming poll. The Pac-10 currently has 7 teams ranked in the top 25, led by Arizona at No. 6.

OREGON STATE WIN TOTALS: The Beavers' 12-3 dual meet record this season tied the school record for wins in a season set by the 1979-80 team.

This is the fourth consecutive year that OSU finished the dual meet season with a winning record; that matches the school's second-best streak from 1987-88 to 1990-91. The school record for consecutive winning seasons is seven (1977-78 to 1983-84). This is the fourth straight season, and the 10th ever, that an Oregon State team has recorded at least seven wins.

OSU has won 18 straight dual meets against non-league foes. The last non-league opponent to defeat the Beavers is California-Santa Barabara, which beat the Beavers 136-124 in the first meet of the 2001-02 season.

SENIORS CAREER RECORD: Seniors Paula Finlay, Naya Higashijima, Jillian McMinn and Suzanne Starkey have helped Oregon State compile a 33-16 dual meet record during their careers. That mark (.670 winning percentage) is the best 4-year record since OSU joined the Pac-10 and NCAA swimming prior to the 1986-87 season.

BEAVERS AMONG NATION'S TOP TIMES: Oregon State had a number of marks among the season's top 75 times in NCAA Divison I through March 5. Here's where the Beavers rank among the national leaders according to

500 FREESTYLE63. Naya Higashijima	4:50.761,000 FREESTYLE20 (tie). Naya Higashijima	9:56.741,650 FREESTYLE21. Naya Higashijima	16:27.59100 BUTTERFLY68. Suzanne Starkey	55.40200 BUTTERFLY16. Naya Higashijima	1:58.07100 BREASTSTROKE12. Birte Steven	1:01.6859. Paula Finlay	1:03.80200 BREASTSTROKE6. Birte Steven	2:11.4535 (tie). Paula Finlay	2:15.85400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY44. Naya Higashijima	4:19.9445. Mari Embertson	4:20.1166. Monika Miroslaw	4:21.55200 MEDLEY RELAY34. Oregon State	1:42.85400 MEDLEY RELAY24. Oregon State	3:43.69200 FREESTYLE RELAY42. Oregon State	1:34.61

STEVENS NATATORIUM: Oregon State swims its home meets at Stevens Natatorium on the OSU campus. The Beavers went 4-0 at home in dual meets this season; it's the first time they've gone unbeaten for a season at Stevens Natatorium. OSU has an all-time record of 11-4 in the pool and OSU is 7-1 at home the past two seasons.

Stevens Natatorium is adjacent to Dixon Recreation Center, near Gill Coliseum. The pool opened in 1994 but was not outfitted for competition until prior to the 1999-2000 season.

OSU had scheduled its home meets at Corvallis' Osborn Aquatic Center since the community pool opened for the 1979-80 season. A few meets were still held on campus at Langton Pool.

OREGON STATE EVENT WINNERS: Naya Higashijima leads OSU swimmers in individual event victories this season with 31 wins. A look at Beaver event winners for the 2002-03 season (exhibition wins as a non-scoring competitor in parentheses) through March 2:

1. Naya Higashijima	(2) 312. Birte Steven	(4) 273. Kristin Huston	154. Suzanne Starkey	(1) 105. Ausra Pacebutaite	(1) 96. Kristi Kuhlmey	87. Monika Miroslaw	28. Paula Finlay	1(tie) Mari Embertson	1(tie) Jessie Hong	1(tie) Christina Kinney	1

BEAVERS REWRITING RECORD BOOK: So far this season Oregon State has set 23 school records in 13 different events. All of the record-setting swims took place at the King County Aquatics Center during the Husky Invitational or the Pacific-10 Championships:

  1,000 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 9:56.74; Dec. 5.     400 MEDLEY RELAY: Ausra Pacebutaite, Birte Steven, Suzanne Starkey, Kristin Huston, 3:44.31; Dec. 6.     500 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 4:50.86; Dec. 6 (prelims).     500 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 4:50.76; Dec. 6 (finals).     200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Birte Steven, 2:03.62; Dec. 6.     200 FREESTYLE RELAY: Kristin Huston, Suzanne Starkey, Ausra Pacebutaite, Paula Finlay, 1:35.66; Dec. 6.     100 BACKSTROKE: Suzanne Starkey, 56.51; Dec. 7.     100 BUTTERFLY: Suzanne Starkey, 55:76; Dec. 7.     100 BREAST: Birte Steven, 1:01.70; Dec. 7 (prelims).     100 BREAST: Birte Steven, 1:01.68; Dec. 7 (finals).     200 MEDLEY RELAY: Suzanne Starkey, Birte Steven, Christina Kinney, Kristin Huston, 1:42.98; Dec. 7.     200 BREAST: Birte Steven, 2:12.86; Dec. 8 (prelims).     200 BREAST: Birte Steven, 2:12.02; Dec. 8 (finals).     100 BUTTERFLY: Suzanne Starkey, 55:09; Feb. 27 (time trial).     200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Birte Steven, 2:03.53; Feb. 27.     200 FREESTYLE RELAY: Kristin Huston, Suzanne Starkey, Ausra Pacebutaite, Paula Finlay, 1:34.61; Feb. 27.     400 MEDLEY RELAY: Ausra Pacebutaite, Birte Steven, Suzanne Starkey, Kristin Huston, 3:43.69; Feb. 27.     200 MEDLEY RELAY: Suzane Starkey, Birte Steven, Christina Kinney, Kristin Huston, 1:42.85; Feb. 28.     200 BREAST: Birte Steven, 2:11.75; March 1 (prelims).     200 BREAST: Birte Steven, 2:11.45; March 1 (finals).     1,650 FREESTYLE: Naya Higashijima, 16:27.59; March 1.     200 BACKSTROKE: Ausra Pacebutaite, 2:02.73; March 1.     400 FREESTYLE RELAY: Kristin Huston, Ausra Pacebutaite, Christina Kinney, Birte Steven, 3:27.44; March 1.

BEAVERS' PLACES ON SCHOOL TOP-10 LISTS: Members of OSU's 2002-2003 squad hold 62 of the 140 places on the list of the school's top 10 performers in each individual event. Current Beaver swimmers with entries on the OSU all-time leaders list through March 2:

1. Naya Higashijima 	82. Birte Steven	73. Suzanne Starkey	6(tie) Paula Finlay	65. Mari Embertson	4(tie) Kristin Huston	4(tie) Christina Kinney	4(tie) Danielle Kinney	4(tie). Kristi Kuhlmey	4(tie) Monika Miroslaw	411. Jessie Hong	3(tie) Ausra Pacebutaite	313.  Leah Schaab	2(tie). Ashleigh Thomas	215. Jillian McMinn	1

OSU FRESHMEN: So far this season, 7 Oregon State freshmen hold a combined 23 spots on the school's top-10 performance list. Christina Kinney, Danielle Kinney, Kristi Kuhlmey and Monika Miroslaw each hold 4 spots.

WHERE THE BEAVERS RANK ON SCHOOL LISTS: Here are OSU's school records and where members of the 2002-2003 Beavers (listed in bold type) rank on the school's individual top-10 list through March 2:

50 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels	23.11	19942. Kristin Huston	23.40	20034. Suzanne Starkey	23.84	20038. Ausra Pacebutaite	24.17	2003

100 FREESTYLE1. Amy van Loben Sels 50.64 19952. Kristin Huston 50.98 20025. Suzanne Starkey 52.02 2003

200 FREESTYLE1. Kristin Huston 1:50.61 20023. Kristi Kuhlmey 1:51.72 20034. Naya Higashijima 1:52.24 20026. Paula Finlay 1:53.61 20037. Birte Steven 1:54.01 200310. Danielle Kinney 1:54.54 2003

500 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima 4:50.76 20032. Kristi Kuhlmey 4:57.61 20037. Danielle Kinney 5:02.48 20039. Birte Steven 5:05.31 2001

1,000 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima 9:56.74 20032. Kristi Kuhlmey 10:15.57 20033. Birte Steven 10:17.60 20038. Danielle Kinney 10:33.89 2003

1,650 FREESTYLE1. Naya Higashijima 16:27.59 20032. Kristi Kuhlmey 16:56.30 20037. Danielle Kinney 17:22.84 20038. Jillian McMinn 17:26.31 2003

100 BACKSTROKE1. Suzanne Starkey 56.51 20032. Ausra Pacebutaite 57.02 20039. Kristin Huston 59.37 200210. Ashleigh Thomas 1:00.04 2003

200 BACKSTROKE1. Ausra Pacebutaite 2:02.73 20033. Jessie Hong 2:04.55 20036. Paula Finlay 2:05.45 20017. Ashleigh Thomas 2:05.89 20038. Suzanne Starkey 2:05.93 2001

100 BUTTERFLY1. Suzanne Starkey 55.09 20033. Christina Kinney 56.39 20034. Naya Higashijima 56.46 200110. Monika Miroslaw 58.96 2003

200 BUTTERFLY1. Naya Higashijima 1:57.72 20022. Christina Kinney 2:02.43 20033. Monika Miroslaw 2:02.62 20034. Suzanne Starkey 2:04.19 20028. Leah Schaab 2:07.83 2003

100 BREASTSTROKE1. Birte Steven 1:01.68 20032. Paula Finlay 1:02.98 20033. Mari Embertson 1:05.90 2003

200 BREASTSTROKE1. Birte Steven 2:11.45 20032. Paula Finlay 2:15.85 20033. Mari Embertson 2:17.52 2003

200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Birte Steven 2:03.53 20032. Paula Finlay 2:04.27 20023. Christina Kinney 2:04.60 20034. Mari Embertson 2:05.31 20035. Naya Higahijima 2:06.72 20036. Monika Miroslaw 2:06.81 20038. Leah Schaab 2:07.99 2003

400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY1. Naya Higashijima 4:18.98 20022. Mari Embertson 4:20.11 20023. Birte Steven 4:21.54 20024. Monika Miroslaw 4:21.55 20035. Leah Schaab 4:25.70 20037. Paula Finlay 4:28.30 20018. Jessie Hong 4:28.31 20029. Christina Kinney 4:30.19 2003

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