They say there’s strength in numbers. The adage seems to have worked for University of Arizona swimmers.
The Wildcats, who qualified the maximum number of swimmers (18) for the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships just concluded, pulled off a third-place finish this year, scoring 387 points, and brought back a couple of individual titles as well.
Arizona State sent two divers to the nationals in Columbus, Ohio. The Sun Devils scored 31 points and finished in 24th place, with a runner-up individual performance.
The Cats were one of three teams that were stricken with the norovirus that delayed start of the event by 24 hours, giving athletes enough time to recover and be able to compete. Despite that, their swimmers were able to pull together national title performances in the 200 Breast stroke and 200 Backstroke.
Cory Chitwood won the title in the 200 Backstroke in 1:39.29, beating defending champion Tyler Clary of Michigan, who holds the NCAA record in the event. Clark Burckle, who was also stricken with the illness, secured his national championship in the 200 Breast stroke by defeating top-seeded Scott Spann of Texas, who had earlier set the pool record in the prelims. Burckle churned the waters in posting a time of 1:53.19.
For ASU, Riley McCormick, the outstanding freshman diver who is ranked ninth in the world in the FINA standings and blew away the competition at the Pac-10 Championships, racked up 469.5 points in the finals to finish runner-up on the 10-meter platform.
The other Sun Devil diver, Constantin Blaha, finished 12th with 367.4 points in the final. The sophomore won the gold on the 3-meter board at the Pac-10 Championships, and a silver on the 1-meter. This was only his second year competing in the platform competition.
Burckle said after the meet was over that he felt the Cats would have performed better if they didn’t have the virus to overcome.
But Texas was also one of the teams hit by the virus bug, the coach as well as team members. But it didn’t seem to slow them down, as the Longhorns gathered in 500 points to win their first national championship since 2002.