BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Dane Stassi
's flamboyant win in the 200 butterfly, two emphatic school records, Anji Shakya
's silver in the 500 and five Triton bronze medalists highlighted day three for UC San Diego at the 2013 NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships Friday at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
Stassi, a sophomore out of Irvine, became a first-time national champion by racing 1:45.12 to best his own school standard by over half a second of 1:45.65 from last November's Arena Invitational. Stassi trailed at the 50-yard and 100-yard marks to Drury sophomore Stanislav Kuzmin, before exploding through the back half to win going away by over two full seconds over a third sophomore, Evandro Silva of Incarnate Word (1:47.16). Kuzmin would fall all the way back and touch seventh.
Stassi, fifth in the event a year ago, hit the water as the heavy favorite this time around, having gone 1:46.83 in morning prelims, a full second faster than his closest competitor in 1:48.04. His dominant third 50 in the final was a total blur, in 26.80.
The four-day championships are being held as part of the NCAA Division II National Championships Festival, co-hosted by the Gulf South Conference and the city of Birmingham and featuring over 1,000 student-athletes from five sports that will crown their team champions this week.
The Triton women remain in third-place heading into the final day of competition. Their 255.5 points trail only Drury (295.5) and defending champion Wayne State (276). The Triton men moved up from eighth to sixth on Friday, now with 208 points. Eight-time defending champion Drury will make it nine straight crowns, leading second-place Florida Southern by 124 points, 398-274.
Shakya, who herself won a first national title on Thursday night in the 200 free, narrowly missed a double as the top seed in the 500, touching out Drury freshman Sarah Pullen (4:51.98) at the wall in 4:51.89 for second and silver-medalist honors. Nova Southeastern senior Erin Black defended her crown in 4:50.29. Shakya's morning mark of 4:53.55 had topped the field.
A pair of NCAA newcomers, true freshman Naomi Thomas (2:01.31) and redshirt freshman Dari Watkins (2:02.52), went 3-6 in the championship final of the 200 fly, both in personal-record times. Thomas earned bronze-medal distinction and improved on her No. 2 ranking in the Triton record book. Watkins, now fourth on that chart, had already turned in a personal best in prelims (2:03.59), with Thomas rallying from behind to win her morning heat in 2:02.01.
Jeremy Smith joined his four teammates in earning individual All-America honors on the night with a sixth-place effort in the 500, timing 4:29.86. The senior advanced to the championship final in a seventh-fastest 4:28.84. Freshman Paul Li had a strong swim in the consolation final in 4:30.35 for 11th overall (4:30.57 prelims).
The UCSD women's 800 free relay of sophomore Sierra Robbins, senior Beth Dong, Watkins and Shakya stormed from behind for a third-place finish in 7:27.37 and bronze all around. Shakya's 1:49.02 anchor leg was second-fastest on the day only to winner Tampa's anchor (1:48.93). The men's foursome of junior Alex Merrill, senior Adam Rice, freshman Michael Leung and Li were ninth-best in 6:41.33. Merrill's leadoff 200 (1:39.17) was his season best.
Having missed the championship final of the 100 breaststroke by just .01 seconds in ninth at 54.28 during prelims, Nicholas Korth looked downright angry in his return to the competition pool and took his frustration out on the seven hapless souls with him for the consolation race. He obliterated both the field (54.98) and his own school record (53.70) by touching the wall in 53.08. Korth had finished second in his heat behind Grand Canyon senior Eetu Karvonen (morning-best 53.01), who then defended his title in 52.65 at night. Korth's mark would have medalled him in third.
Olivia Fountain achieved her best time of 56.06 to move up to 11th in the 100 back after advancing to the consolation final with the 15th-fastest qualifier (56.57). Rice was in command from start to finish in taking the consolation final of the 200 fly (1:48.79). His then-season-best 1:49.07 left him .03 seconds short of the championship final. A third senior, Adam Yen, was 15th following that same race, in 1:50.98. Yen timed a season-best 1:49.99 in prelims, narrowly short of his personal record of 1:49.82.
Senior Tyler Runsten completed his stellar four-year Triton career in one-meter springboard trials. The four-time All-American, who had moved up from his qualifying spot of eighth to a final placement of fourth on three-meter on Wednesday night, compiled 455.30 points over his 11 dives and did not advance, placing 10th. Junior teammate Luke Calkins was 18th with a score of 386.05.
Eva Chen just missed out on a second swim in the 100 breast as the first alternate (17th) in 1:04.51, a personal record by more than a second and ninth-best all-time in program history.
Remaining Friday morning competitors were junior Erika Rodman in the 500 (20th, 5:00.43), junior Sandy Hon in the 100 back (24th, 57.72), Leung (26th, career-best 49.94) and senior co-captain Julius Espiritu (35th, 51.02) in the 100 back, sophomore Jaclyn Amog in the 100 breast (32nd, 1:07.89), and Dong in the 200 fly (21st, 2:07.89).
The 2013 NCAA Championships conclude Saturday with the 1650 free, 100 free, 200 back, 200 breast and 400 free relay. Korth won the 200 breast as a freshman in 2011. Prelims are at 8 a.m. PT with the final evening segment at 3:30 p.m.
Triton Notes: UCSD has now broken three school records at this meet and 10 on the season ... Nicholas Korth's previous school-record swim in the 100 breast took place on Nov. 18, 2011 ... Even through preliminaries and finals today in Birmingham, Dane Stassi was the only swimmer nationally in Division II this whole season that got under the automatic NCAA qualifier of 1:46.97 in the 200 fly ... Stassi bested that guideline a total of three times, in the Arena Invitational final and twice today ... Stassi is now a five-time All-American with four individual fly performances and both medley relays from this week's meet ... Stassi is UCSD's 14th individual Division II national champion on the men's side, and first since 2011 ... Kurt Boehm had previously won the Division II 200 fly in 2005 (1:46.03) ... Top-eight in individual events and relays at the NCAA Championships earn All-America recognition for swimmers and divers, while positions 9-16 garner All-America honorable mention.
-- UCSDtritons.com --