Arizona And California Tied After First Day Of Competition

Feb. 22, 2006


LONG BEACH, Calif. - No. 3 California won the 800-yard freestyle relay for the third year in a row, and No. 7 Arizona took the 200-yard medley relay for the first time in school history to highlight the first day of the 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Women's Swimming Championships from Long Beach's Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool on Wednesday evening. The Bears and Wildcats are tied for first place with 120 points at the end of the first day of the four-day meet. No. 10 USC is in third place with 108 points.

In the first of two conference titles contested on Wednesday, Arizona's 200-yard medley relay team of Marshi Smith, Erin Sieper, Lara Jackson and Anna Turner won the race for the first time in school history with an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 1:39.60.

'This is a very pleasant surprise,' Arizona coach Frank Busch said. 'We didn't expect to win this relay.'

Smith swam the fastest backstroke leg to give the Wildcats the early lead. Cal took the advantage after the breaststroke leg, but Arizona freshman Jackson swam a strong butterfly leg to regain the lead for the Wildcats before fellow freshman Turner held on in the freestyle for the victory.

Cal's quartet of Helen Silver, Jessica Hardy, Annie Babicz and Emily Silver held on for second place with a time of 1:39.98. USC's team of Hayley McGregory, Rebecca Soni, Kristen Lahey and Melissa McIntyre finished third in 1:40.25.

Despite the program's first win in the 20-year history of the race, Busch said he expects his squad to improve before the NCAA Championships in three weeks.

'Once we're rested, I think we're going to be a lot better, and hopefully at least another second better at NCAAs,' he said. 'If you want to get a relay in the top 3, you have to be at least second better. I would expect us to be better next time around.'

While Arizona made its mark for the first time in the 200-yard medley relay, Cal continued its recent dominance of the 800-yard freestyle relay by winning its third-straight conference title in the event.

The Golden Bears' quartet of Ashley Chandler, Lauren Andrews, Lauren Rogers and Erin Reilly dueled with the Wildcat's team of Whitney Myers, Courtney Cashion, Jenna Gresdal and Lacey Nymeyer for nearly the entire running of the race.

After the first 200 yards, senior Chandler gave Cal a 1.18-second lead over Arizona with a personal best 200-yard time of 1:45.97. In the final stretch of the second leg, Cashion took 0.54-second advantage for Arizona. Yet then Rogers' third leg for Cal gave the Golden Bears a 1.16-second lead going to the anchor swimmer, and Reilly pulled away for the Bears to win the race in an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 7:08.31. Cal had come into the race having posted the best previous time in the nation this year.

'There's kind of an ownership of this race that we've had in the last few years,' Cal coach Teri McKeever said. 'The girls were motivated to keep the streak going.'

Arizona was 1.69 seconds back with an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 7:10.00. USC, with Rhi Jeffrey clocking the fastest 200-yard split of any competitor at 1:45.50 in the final leg, closed for third with an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 7:10.80.

Cal's Reilly and Chandler were also members of the Golden Bears' two previous 800-yard freestyle relay title teams. McKeever said she was pleased with Andrews' and Rogers' ability to step up and continue the streak.

'It's almost identical,' McKeever said about the talent of this year's 800-yard freestyle relay team compared to the previous two years. 'The thing I'm most proud of is having different people stepping up and still being able to win. That really shows the growth in our program.'

The Pac-10 Women's Swimming Championships continue on Thursday with the 500-yard freestyle, the 200-yard individual medley, the 50-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle relay. Preliminaries begin at 11 a.m. with the finals at 6 p.m. The Pac-10 Women's Diving Championships in Federal Way, Wash., also begin Thursday with the 1-meter preliminaries and finals.

The team standings after the first day of competition: 1. Arizona (120 points); 1. California (120); 3. USC (108); 4. Stanford (102); 4. UCLA (102); 6. Arizona State (94); 6. Washington (94); 8. Oregon State (84); 8. Washington State (84).

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