Arizona and USC Tied for the Lead After Day One of Pac 10 Women's Swimming Championships

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Feb. 24, 2010

The Arizona Wildcats approached the start blocks on Day 1 of the Pac-10 Women's Swimming Championships with total domination reflected in their goggles. The 'Cats - who reigned the Pac-10 Championships from 2006-2008 and have not finished off the team podium since 2004 -turned those images into reality when they won the meet's opening event, the 200 medley relay.

The event title is the third consecutive for the Wildcats. Justine Schluntz (backstroke), Annie Chandler (breaststroke), Ana Agy (butterfly), and Emma Darlington (freestyle) sprinted to claim the shorter of the weekend's two medley relays in 1:37.00. The time is the third-best in Pac-10 Championship history and falls less than a half-second off the pace of Arizona's victory times in 2008 and 2009.

In a repeat of last season's Pac-10 Women's Swimming Championship, the Wildcats' foursome beat runner-up Stanford's time by eight-tenths of a second, checking in with an NCAA-qualifying time. The Cardinal missed the NCAA 'A' cut by .05 seconds but set a school record with their 1:37.86. Rounding out the podium was California (1:38.28).

The power of the Wildcats was made even more evident by the speed of their unsanctioned relay teams. Arizona teams touched the wall first in each of the two heats that preceded the championship seeding. The team of Jenny Forster, Ellyn Baumgardner, Dana Christ, and Andrea Boritzke finished in a time (1:38.28) that matched the third-place effort of California's 'A' team. The 1:40.30 set by Arizona's 'C' squad would have placed seventh-best in the championship final. In all, each of Arizona's four relay teams and the scoring squads from every other Pac-10 institution raced well under the NCAA consolation standard of 1:42.70.

The evening's excitement carried through to the second and final event of the night, the 800 freestyle relay. California's Sara Isakovic, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 200-meter free, led off the Bears' effort to notch a record seventh Championship victory in the event. But USC junior Presley Bard put up an early roadblock by posting a leadoff-best 1:44.47.

With the exception of a three-tenths deficit halfway through the race, the Trojans would not relinquish their lead over the pack. But the race was not without extreme pressure. Stanford and California fell no further than a body length from the lead at any point during the race. In fact, anchor Julia Smit hinted at a Cardinal come-from-behind win with just one flip turn remaining. Despite swimming the fastest split in the event, Smit could not overcome world champion and native Hungarian Katinka Hosszu of USC. The Trojan squad touched just under the 7-minute mark in 6:59.48, an NCAA automatic time. Stanford's 7:00.45 and California's 7:01.16 were NCAA automatic qualifying marks as well

Arizona and USC, both tied atop the leaderboard with 116 points apiece, carry a narrow lead over Stanford 116-112 at this early stage of the meet. Action resumes at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, Calif., tomorrow with morning preliminaries set to take off at 11 a.m. Watch a live stream of the swims at The diving portion of the Championships also begins tomorrow in Federal Way, Wash.

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