Steven Earns Seventh All-America Honor; OSU Places 20th

Birte Steven ended her exemplary college career in high fashion Saturday evening, finishing second in the 200-meter breaststroke at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. The finish guaranteed Steven a seventh All-America honor after she garnered her sixth on Friday, and it was also the highest NCAA finish ever for an Oregon State swimmer. Mari Embertson complemented Steven's finish with a 28th-place finish of her own in the same event. Oregon State finished 20th overall, its highest finish ever at the national meet.

'I'm very excited to see this program in the top 20,' OSU head coach Larry Liebowitz said. 'This just shows our potential. I think we have a lot to look forward to with the girls returning and the freshmen coming in.

'Birte swam great tonight. Tara (Kirk of Stanford) got out a little ahead of her and she wasn't quite able to make it up, but her first-place finish in the preliminaries and her finish tonight just shows that she's ready to make a run at the other two German girls for the Olympics.'

Steven, a senior, swam the short course meters race in 2 minutes, 22.14 seconds. Converted to yards, her time is 2:07.36 and it beat her former school record of 2:09.96 by over a second. Earlier in the day, Steven had posted the fastest time of any swimmer in the preliminaries at 2:22.97, which is 2:08.10 converted.

'I just went out there to have fun and swim,' Steven said. 'I wasn't worried about the other stuff, and I think that helped my focus on why I really swim in the first place.

'I knew that I would be going up against Tara, who is a world-class swimmer, and she is always very fast at night. She did tell me later that she wouldn't have been able to go as fast if I hadn't been swimming with her. In that sense it was very fun to have someone to race with.'

Steven will be trying to make the German Olympic Team this summer, and only the nation's top two breaststrokers will be taken. Her two biggest competitors, Vipa Bernhardt of Florida and Sarah Poewe of Georgia, are both sophomores. Steven finished ahead of both in the 200 breaststroke, and finished in between the two in the 100.

'I feel good about beating them tonight,' Steven said. 'It shows them that they have some competition for the Olympics, and I am just as fast as they are.'

Embertson, a junior, had a 2:31.52 swim earlier this morning in the 200 breaststroke preliminaries. Converted, her time is 2:15.76, 0.08 seconds better than her 2:16.58 mark gained earlier this season.

'Mari will swim again in the morning,' Liebowitz said. 'There is a time trial, and we're going to get her to swim in that and hopefully qualify in the 400 IM.'

Oregon State's 20th place finish was gained with 45 points; the Beavers trailed 19th-place Virginia by eight, and led 21st-place Alabama by two. Five Pacific-10 teams placed in the top 10 - Arizona in third with 369 points, Stanford in fifth with 237, California in sixth with 235.5, UCLA in seventh with 195, and USC in ninth with 160.

Auburn won the NCAA title for the third straight year with 569 points, the most scored since 1993. There were 39 records were set at the meet, including an NCAA record set in every event.

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