UA swimmers make a big splash at Winter Nationals

The University of Arizona swim teams will get a welcome break from competition until next month.  But they definitely earned it after their performances at the USA Swimming AT&T Winter National Championships.

They returned from Texas with two new American records and eight meet records – and the men’s and women’s relay teams went undefeated through eight events.

And along the way during the three-day event, a 19-year-old sophomore became the first male swimmer to break the 1:51 mark in the 200 breast stroke.

Arizona’s men’s and women’s teams were both ranked No. 13 in the nation when they sent a contingent of 42 swimmers, including a few alums, to the nationals this year.  The field also included 19 U.S. Olympians.

Kevin Cordes, the lanky 6’5″ sophomore from Illinois, won the 200 breast in a time of 1:50.73 to break the American record of 1:51.73 and the NCAA record of 1:51.40 set in 2009.  He also set a new American record in the 100 breast on day two of the event with a time of 51.10.

To top it off, he swam a leg of the 4×400 relay and the 4×200 medley relay – which both set meet records with 3:05.69 and 1:24.84 finishes.

Last year, Cordes was the school’s Male Freshman Athlete of the Year following a season in which he broke two American records.  This year, he picked up right where he left off, twice earning the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month honors, most recently for November.  The entire program has recorded just seven all-time.

On the women’s side, Margo Geer created the event’s buzz when she beat four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin to win the 100 freestyle event.  Geer, a junior from Ohio, edged Franklin by finishing in a time of 47.16, touching just ahead of Franklin’s 47.60.

Geer, too, has built off her accomplishments from the previous year when she earned a team-high seven All-America honors and set a new school record in the 100 free.  During her first two years in Tucson she became a 13-time All American.

Geer joined with Bonnie Brandon, Megan Lafferty, and Alana Pazevic to set another meet record (3:13.90) in the 400 free relay.  And on the boys’ side, the 400 free relay team of Giles Smith, Mitchell Friedemann, Woody Joye, and Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or missed a new meet record by the thinnest of margins with a time of 2:51.21.  The record is 2:51.19.

Brandon also enjoyed individual success, winning the silver in the 200 back stroke with a time of 1:51.49 – which also broke the three-year-old school record.

Last year was the first year for new head coach, Eric Hansen.  His first men’s team finished in fourth place at the NCAA Championships, while the women picked up a fifth-place finish.  Hansen inherited a men’s team that went undefeated the year before his arrival, with wins over five teams ranked in the top 15 nationally.

The men’s team won’t see action again until the Jan. 11-13 weekend when they travel to Los Angeles for the Bruin Invitational.  The women will get an earlier start on the new year, hosting Northern Arizona, Oregon State, and New Mexico on Jan. 4.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)