Arizona Wins Pac-10 Championships

Feb. 25, 2006

Day 4 Results | Entire Meet Results

LONG BEACH, Calif - USC Trojan freshman Rebecca Soni was not on campus when a small fire broke out in her dorm early Saturday morning. However she was certainly present in Long Beach that evening when she lit up the Pacific-10 Conference Women's Swimming Championships by blazing to her second individual title and Swimmer of the Meet honors.

Arizona, which won Saturday's 400-yard freestyle relay in meet record time, captured the Pac-10 team championship with 1,325.5 points ahead of UCLA's 1,246.5 points and Stanford's 1,227 points.

Other highlights from the final day of competition at Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool included Stanford's Dana Kirk earning her second individual title of the meet in the 200-yard butterfly, UCLA's Katie Nelson winning the 1,650-yard freestyle over two-time Pac-10 champion Kalyn Keller of USC, California senior Helen Silver capturing the first Pac-10 individual title of her career in the 200-yard backstroke and Arizona's Courtney Cashion taking the 100-yard freestyle.

Rebecca Soni of USC was named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Meet after winning the 100 and 200 Breast.

Soni's win in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:08.16, the fastest time in the United States this season, capped an impressive first Pac-10 Championships for the freshman from Plaisboro, N.J. She won two Pac-10 individual titles in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststrokes, was a member of USC's winning 400-yard medley relay team, and also finished third in the 200-yard individual medley.

'I was surprised - I'm not going to lie,' she said about being named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Meet. 'It is exciting because it is my first year. It definitely sets me up well for NCAAs.'

In the 200-yard breaststroke on Saturday evening, Soni took the lead from the start and gradually pulled away from the competition to defeat Erin Sieper of Arizona, who finished 3.84 seconds back in 2:12.00. Stanford's Kristen Caverly, the Pac-10 200-yard individual medley champion, took third in 2:12.11. Soni, Sieper and Caverly each finished in NCAA automatic-qualifying times.

'I like the 200 better,' Soni said. 'I just get better as the race goes longer and can get into a rhythm. If there was a 400(-yard breaststroke), I'd probably be good at it, too. So I like the longer distances.'

While Soni excelled individually, Arizona was able to win its first team championship since 2000 and just its second in the 20-year history of the Pac-10 Women's Swimming Championships.

'We didn't come here expecting to win this thing,' Arizona coach Frank Busch said. 'This is very much of a surprise. Why this came about, things just lined up right. Our team swam very well. They fought hard. As the meet progressed, they kind of saw it was a possibility. It was like the door's open if you want to go in. It's a great group to be around. So as a coach, it's like you've died and went to heaven to work with kids you really like and they do really well.'

The Wildcats took three of the five relay races at the Pac-10 Championships. Busch said that Saturday's performance by Cashion, Jenna Gresdal, Taylor Baughman and Lacey Nymeyer in the 400-yard freestyle may have been the team's strongest. The quartet stopped the clock in an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 3:16.60, breaking the previous meet record of 3:17.20 held by Arizona's 1998 team.

'We have a huge sprint group,' Cashion said. 'A lot of times it comes down to the last relays. It helps us walk into NCAAs with a lot of confidence knowing we beat good teams to get there.'

Arizona and Cal were 1-2 the entire race, and the Golden Bears' team of Erin Reilly, Ashley Chandler, Lauren Andrews and Emily Silver took second in an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 3:18.01. Arizona State's Caitlin Andrew, Jen Beckberger, Lindsey Brown and Heidi Schmidt finished third in 3:21.33.

In addition to leading off the 400-yard freestyle relay for Arizona, Cashion also won 100-yard freestyle on Saturday in an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 48.59 seconds. Cashion, the top qualifier heading into the final, recorded the fastest times for each 50-yard split. She beat out Emily Silver of Cal, who was second in 48.79 seconds, and Rhi Jeffrey of USC, who finished third in 48.94.

'I really wanted to win the 50 being the top seed in that, but I messed up my dive,' said Cashion, who finished seventh in the 50-yard freestyle on Thursday. 'So also being the top seed in the 100, I needed to focus on being able to get out first. I feel like I made up for it.'

In the 200-yard butterfly, Stanford senior Kirk won her second individual title of the meet after capturing the 100-yard butterfly on Friday. She took the lead from UCLA's Kim Vandenberg at the halfway stage of the race and held off a late charge by Arizona's Whitney Myers to win in an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 1:56.64. Myers and Vandenberg dead-heated for second place in NCAA automatic-qualifying times of 1:56.77.

'It is great to have a senior year like this,' said Kirk, who also won last year's Pac-10 200-yard butterfly title. 'It's a good setup for NCAAs. The butterfly at the Pac-10 is always packed with good swimmers. Many of these swimmers have the potential to finish in the top five at NCAAs, and so it gives me a lot of confidence to be able to win this race.'

Another senior who went out on a high note at her last Pac-10 Championships was Cal's Helen Silver, who came back from a fifth-place finish in Friday's 100-yard backstroke to win Saturday's 200-yard backstroke in an NCAA automatic-qualifying time of 1:55.12.

'I'm much more confident in the 200,' she said. 'I feel in a 200 I can get my stroke going more instead of in the 100 where I'm muscling it more. I tried to go out easy for the first half (of the 200). The third 50, I accelerated. By the fourth 50, I was totally dead and trying to muscle through to the finish.'

Silver beat out Hayley McGregory of USC, who was second in 1:55.77. McGregory was also second in Friday's 100-yard backstroke. UCLA's Katie Arnold took third in 1:56.19. The victory marked the first individual Pac-10 title for Silver.

'I think that was a lot of the motivation,' Silver said. 'This is my last Pac-10. It is a great way to go into NCAAs.'

In the 1,650-yard freestyle, UCLA's Nelson passed USC's Keller, the Pac-10 champion in the event for the past two years, to take the lead at the 950-yard mark. Nelson then pulled away from Keller, who had won the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday, to win in an NCAA-automatic qualifying time of 16:18.00. Keller held on for second in a time of 16:25.97. Washington State's Erin McCleave posted the highest individual finish of the meet for the Cougars with a third-place finish in 16:31.87.

'I was about to cry,' Nelson said after she won. 'It's exciting that I got first. I would have been thrilled to be in the top three.'

Nelson had finished third to Keller as a freshman in 2004 and then was fourth behind Keller in the event last year.

The Pacific-10 Conference Women's Swimming Championships competitors now turn their attention to the 2006 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, which will take place from March 16-18 at the University of Georgia's Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Ga.

Final Team Standings (including diving results):
1. Arizona (1,325.5 points)
2. UCLA (1,246.5)
3. Stanford (1,227)
4. USC (1,162.5)
5. California (1,082.5)
6. Arizona State (670.5)
7. Oregon State (483.5)
8. Washington (414)
9. Washington State (399)

Pac-10 Swimmer of the Meet:
Rebecca Soni, USC

Pac-10 Diver of the Meet:
Blythe Hartley, USC

The Pac-10 Women's Swimming Champions:

200-Yard Medley Relay --- Arizona
800-Yard Freestyle Relay --- California

500-Yard Freestyle --- Kalyn Keller (USC)
200-Yard Individual Medley --- Kristen Caverly (Stanford)
50-Yard Freestyle --- Brooke Bishop (Stanford)
200-Yard Freestyle Relay --- Arizona

400-Yard Individual Medley --- Whitney Myers (Arizona)
100-Yard Butterfly --- Dana Kirk (Stanford)
200-Yard Freestyle --- Erin Reilly (California)
100-Yard Breaststroke --- Rebecca Soni (USC)
100-Yard Backstroke --- Jenna Gresdal (Arizona)
400-Yard Medley Relay --- USC

1,650-Yard Freestyle --- Katie Nelson (UCLA)
200-Yard Backstroke --- Helen Silver (California)
100-Yard Freestyle --- Courtney Cashion (Arizona)
200-Yard Breaststroke --- Rebecca Soni (USC)
200-Yard Butterfly --- Dana Kirk (Stanford)
400-Yard Freestyle Relay --- Arizona

NCAA Automatic Qualifiers from the Pac-10 Women's Swimming Championships Finals:

200-Yard Medley Relay --- Arizona
800-Yard Freestyle Relay --- California; Arizona; USC

500-Yard Freestyle --- Kalyn Keller (USC); Erin Reilly (California); Ashley Chandler (California)
200-Yard Individual Medley --- Kristen Caverly (Stanford); Whitney Myers (Arizona)
50-Yard Freestyle --- Brooke Bishop (Stanford); Emily Silver (California); Lacey Nymeyer (Arizona); Rhi Jeffrey (USC); Jenna Gresdal (Arizona)
200-Yard Freestyle Relay --- Arizona

400-Yard Individual Medley --- Whitney Myers (Arizona)
100-Yard Butterfly --- Dana Kirk (Stanford); Caitlin Andrew (Arizona State); Kim Vandenberg (UCLA)
200-Yard Freestyle --- Erin Reilly (California); Ashley Chandler (California); Lacey Nymeyer (Arizona)
100-Yard Breaststroke --- Rebecca Soni (USC); Jessica Hardy (California); Annie Babicz (California); Erin Sieper (Arizona); Melissa McIntyre (USC)
100-Yard Backstroke --- Jenna Gresdal (Arizona); Hayley McGregory (USC); Marshi Smith (Arizona); Caitlin Andrew (Arizona State); Helen Silver (California); Brooke Bishop (Stanford); Lauren Rogers (California)
400-Yard Medley Relay --- USC; California; Arizona

1,650-Yard Freestyle --- Katie Nelson (UCLA)
200-Yard Backstroke --- Helen Silver (California); Hayley McGregory (USC); Katie Arnold (UCLA); Andrea Axtell (Stanford); Lauren Rogers (California); Lauren Andrews (California); Marshi Smith (Arizona)
100-Yard Freestyle --- Courtney Cashion (Arizona); Emily Silver (California); Rhi Jeffrey (USC); Jenna Gresdal (Arizona); Lacey Nymeyer (Arizona)
200-Yard Breaststroke --- Rebecca Soni (USC); Erin Sieper (Arizona); Kristen Caverly (Stanford)
200-Yard Butterfly --- Dana Kirk (Stanford); Whitney Myers (Arizona); Kim Vandenberg (UCLA)
400-Yard Freestyle Relay --- Arizona; California