When the third day of the four-day event concluded, the Triton men (307 points) had tightened their grip on second place in the team competition and sliced 20 points off first place Drury's (330 points) lead. Third place Wingate has 239 points. On the women's side, UCSD vaulted past defending champion Drury (337.5 to 337) into the second spot but both trail front-running Wayne State (392 points) by a significant margin.
Co-head coach Matt Macedo was bullish about his teams' performances but realistic about what Saturday might bring. "Today is traditionally the toughest day to swim well and we had a great night," said the first-year head man, "but we've got our work cut out for us tomorrow in terms of the team standings.
"For the men, Matt (Herman) has a chance to start our evening off well in the 1,650 and the team could feed off it like we did last year," said Macedo. "We know the 200 breaststroke could be an awesome event for us but we also know Drury's got a really big day looming. To beat them, we're going to need big swims from our seniors in the 100 free and 200 back and points out of our divers on the three-meter board."
The scenario is similar in the women's division. "We've got a potentially great day in front of us and anything can happen," Macedo reasoned, "but it's going to take a phenomenal morning for us to make a serious run at first place."
Phenomenal was a good way to describe UCSD's overall performance Friday. The night began and ended with new school records and along the way the Tritons put swimmers in the championship finals in seven of the eight individual events as well as both relays.
Junior Adam Rice led the men's charge, finishing third in the 200 butterfly, clocking 1:46.86, more than two seconds under his previous best and third-fastest in school history. Freshman Dane Stassi joined Rice in the finals, placing fifth in 1:47.31 with junior Adam Yen getting 11th.
Earlier, sophomore Nick Korth, the 2011 national champ in the 200 breaststroke, rode a strong start to a bronze medal finish in the 100 breaststroke, getting to the wall in 53.79, just over his school record. Junior Jacob Lammott, like Stassi in his first NCAA meet, snagged 14th.
The Triton men also had two scorers in the 500 freestyle with senior standout Matt Herman churning to a fifth place result (4:29.18) against a high quality field and sophomore Jeremy Smith utilizing a strong late run for 12th. Senior Eric Owens was the only point-getter in 100 backstroke, gaining two points for 15th (49.67).
The foursome of Alex Merrill, Julius Espiritu, Rice and Michael Lorch erased the UCSD school standard in the 800 freestyle relay, closing out the night on a high note with a sixth place effort in 6:37.68. It was UCSD's eighth school record at the NCAA meet.
In the women's section, Anji Shakya continued to add to a breakthrough performance on this stage. A second place finisher in the 200 freestyle Thursday night, the fast-improving sophomore added a second silver medal to her Mansfield haul by lopping nearly four seconds off her school record in the evening's opening event, the 500 freestyle (4:51.14). Although the sizzling swim came up just short of Nova Southeastern's Erin Black, it was hardly a disappointment for Shakya.
"I'm tired of getting second," she smiled when her night was over. "It's a little frustrating but actually I'm really happy...I mean I dropped four seconds off my best time. Honestly, getting a best time wasn't even in my thoughts beforehand. I was just focusing on racing my competition."
The Tritons got a fourth place finish from the redoubtable Alex Henley in the 100 backstroke (55.13) and a solid third place 100 breaststroke outing from junior Emily Adamczyk in a personal best time of 1:03.57. Juniors Sandy Hon and Olivia Fountain grabbed 12th and 13th places behind Henley and senior breaststroker Neda Nguyen claimed 13th in the 100.
Sophomore Gabby Rossbach, swimming her first event of the Championships, took fifth in the 200 butterfly in 2:03.04. Norgaard, approximately half an hour after the 500 freestyle, came back to snatch 12th.
Henley, Dong, Norgaard and Shakya partnered to collect a second place finish in the 800 freestyle relay (7:24.39).
The 2012 Championships conclude Saturday at the Mansfield ISD Natatorium with eight individual swimming events, men's three-meter diving and the 400 freestyle relays.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS NOTES
Adam Rice is emerging as perhaps UCSD's biggest story on the men's side. With thirds in both the 200 individual medley and 200 butterfly and fourth in the 400 individual medley as well as personal bests in all three races, including the lowering of his school mark in the 200 IM and massive drops in the other two events, all he's missing is a top podium finish. Add big roles in three record-breaking relay units (200 and 400 medley and 800 freestyle) and the Atwater native is pretty much a full-fledged star operating under the radar. Just don't tell him that.
"I really have to attribute it to the coaching," he said. "The coaches have been great. They knew exactly how to work us and push us. I've never gone this hard in my life, practice-wise, and it's paid off.
"I really didn't have any specific expectations prior to the meet. I came here with a humble attitude and didn't expect anything to be given to me. I was hopeful, but have just been trying to do my best. My mom says I ‘should be more cocky and confident,' but my approach has been to just do my best, stick to the game plan and hope to do great. It's worked for me so far."
Anji Shakya, who now has three runner-up finishes - two individual and one relay - over the three days gives partial credit to co-head coach Corrie Falcon and senior teammate Alex Henley for her success. "Corrie has been telling me that no matter the situation or how I feel coming into a race, I have to just go for it," says the normally-reserved Shakya. "She says that ‘you never know what's going to happen between now and your next race,' so you need to take advantage of the opportunity."
Shakya has definitely taken advantage of being able to observe Henley over the past two years. "As a freshman, I looked up to Alex a lot. She sets such a strong leadership role with the team and is so composed before and after races. I wish I could be more like her."
Henley's a three-time NCAA title-winner, hallowed ground that Shakya is on the verge of experiencing. "It's definitely been exciting," says the Davis native, who was unable to get past the consolation finals last March in San Antonio. "And I feel like there are bigger and better things to come in the future."
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