Keller Sets American Record In 1500m Freestyle (SCM)

March 20, 2004

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - USC freshman Kalyn Keller broke the American record in the 1500 freestyle (short course meters) and junior Kaitlin Sandeno finished second in the 200 fly -- .05 out of first place and winning her third title of the meet -- on the final night of the 2004 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday (March 20) at Texas A&M's Student Rec Center Natatorium in College Station, Texas.

USC, with only eight swimmers, finished ninth with 160 points, the 11th year in a row in the top 10. Auburn won its third straight title with 569 points while Georgia was second (431) and Arizona was third (369). The Pac-10 finished with five schools in the top nine and seven in the top 20.

Sandeno finished as the meet's highest scorer with 57 individual points. Cal senior Natalie Coughlin, who lost for the first time ever at the NCAA Championships (third in the 200 back), was second with 56 points.

Keller swam the fastest mile by an American woman in short course meters in more than two decades, clocking 15:49.14, almost two seconds ahead of Kim Linehan's 1983 record of 15:50.96. Keller's swim is the fastest in the world this year and marked the first time USC has won the mile at the NCAA Championships. She was also second in the 400m free on Thursday.

Keller's closest competitor in the race was Florida senior Sara McClarty, who was second in 15:55.27. Keller trailed early to McClarty and Auburn freshman Adrienne Binder, but took her first lead after 400 meters at 4:12.59 and extended it every lap for the next 900 meters. By that time, she had more than a five-second lead on McClarty and was racing against the clock. Keller accelerated in the final 100 meters to secure the American record, clocking her second-fastest 100 of the race in 1:02.67.

The winning time lowered the NCAA record of 16:00.70 (set by Georgia sophomore Laura Conway one heat earlier) as well as USC's school record of 16:14.77. USC's Margie Pedder also swam a brilliant race, clocking the fifth-fastest time of the night in 16:02.02. In fact, Pedder's final 300 meters (3:10.29) and 100 meters (1:02.06) was the fastest in the race.

'I'm very excited and happy,' said Keller, whose brother, Klete, won three titles while at USC. 'About halfway through the race, I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm never swimming this race again!' It was getting painful. But after awhile, I saw my team on the deck cheering me on and it makes you keep going.

'I didn't know it was an American record until I went to the award's stand. Coach (Mark) Schubert asked me if I ever had an American record and I was like, 'Are you serious?'

'Swimming at USC and with all the training, it gives me a lot of confidence in my race and I kept to my own strategy. Believe it or not, I have a lot to improve on and that makes it exciting. I can definitely swim better, but with an American record, I'm not complaining.'

Said USC Coach Mark Schubert: 'Kalyn is really coming into her own and getting a lot of confidence. She swam her own race and didn't let the field get out ahead of her. The shorter races will come as she gets more speed, but that's her best race. And she's capable of going faster.'

Sandeno finished the 200m fly in 2:06.07, barely out-touched at the wall by Georgia sophomore Mary Descenza in 2:06.02. The races were the third and fourth fastest in the world this year, respectively. The four top finishers in the race were within 0.52 of each other. Sandeno, swimming in lane five, appeared to have caught up to Descenza, in lane two, within the last five meters, but fell just short.

'It was a difficult race with people like (Stanford's) Dana Kirk going out fast and she wanted to stay in contact with her. And then there's people like Mary Descenza who is a good back-end swimmer,' Schubert said. 'Mary swam the middle better than Kaitlin, but Kaitlin came back in the last 50 and just missed. It was still a great race, but I just don't think she saw Mary.'

Sandeno's swim broke her own school record set in prelims. She has now set USC records at the meet in the 200m IM, 400m IM, 50m free, 400m free relay and 800m free relay.

Pedder, less than an hour after swimming the mile, finished fifth in consolation finals of the 200m fly (2:12.45) while junior Marisa Kozak, swimming the event competitively for the second time ever, was seventh (2:12.86). The race marked the second straight year Kozak scored individually.

USC junior Joanna Fargus, who just missed qualifying for the finals of 200m back, won the consolation final in 2:09.97, lowering her own school record (2:10.33) she set in prelims. The swim capped a solid year for Fargus, who returned from an injured ankle suffered as a sophomore.

USC's 400m free relay barely missed out on a second swim, but the unit of Fargus, freshman Cait Connealy, senior Jana Krohn and Sandeno did set a USC record in 3:46.14. Sophomore Stacy Vazhenin was 37th in the 200m back in 2:16.10.

USC has set school records in 10 events: the 400m and 800m free relays, the 50m free 400m free, 1500m free, 200m IM, 400m IM, 100m fly, 200m fly and 200m back.

The meet, normally competed in yards, is being swum in short course meters because it is an Olympic year. For full results, go to:

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