NCAA swimming championships swamped by a bug

Riley McCormick was on a roll heading into the men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships this week.  Now he sits and waits.

The Arizona State diver had come from an impressive performance in the 10-meter competition at the Pac-10 Championships, literally destroying the rest of the field, and anxious to get on the board high atop the water in Columbus, Ohio, at the nationals.

Currently ranked ninth in the world in the FINA standings, the freshman scored an incredible 905.4 points at the conference meet, winning by almost 170 points.

He was prepared for a noon start today.  But he won’t get to the board until some time after noon tomorrow.

NCAA officials, after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced yesterday that the national meet would be delayed 24 hours when 19 swimmers from three schools – University of Arizona, Stanford, and Texas – were treated for “gastrointestinal issues.”  They are spending the delay making sure the pool and facilities will be clean for the competition, which will now conclude Sunday instead of Saturday.

The cause of the outbreak hasn’t been confirmed, but all of the athletes that were affected had reportedly flown into Columbus on the same airline flight.  Those affected were treated and released from the Ohio State University Medical Center last night.

(Update: The Columbus Dispatch newspaper is reporting now that the culprit for the illnesses appears to be norovirus, a group of related bugs that are spread easily and can cause severe diahrrea, vomiting and stomach pain.  They still don’t know for sure where the athletes picked up the virus, although they all flew the same flight to Columbus, and there is concern that people in other states could be at risk.  Extra precautions are being taken at the event to assure that the swimmers or others don’t spread the illness.)

ASU has sent two divers to the championships.  The other is Constantin Blaha, who has also built up momentum after being named the Pac-10 Diver of the Meet at the conference championships.  The sophomore took home the gold on the 3-meter board and a silver on the 1-meter – and then placed second on the 3-meter and third on the 1-meter at the Zone E Championships.  He, too, is on a roll.

But while ASU brought its two divers, UofA qualified an NCAA-maximum 18 swimmers for the meet, more than any other team in the championships.  The roster includes a diver the Cats are hoping can challenge ASU’s tower duo.  Ben Grado is making his third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships, coming off a strong performance at the Zone E Championships with a second-place finish on the 1-meter and a third place on the 3-meter.

Break out the cards, boys.  Noon tomorrow won’t come too soon.

Maybe it will give the Cats and the Devils a chance to get to know one another.  Naw

(Photo: ASU Athletics)