Posted: Saturday, 09 March 2013 9:26PM

Panthers Sweep Men's, Women's Swimming Championships



Birmingham, Ala. -- Clearly, celebrating one national championship for the Drury swimming and diving squads wasn't nearly as much fun as the usual two.

So the Drury women made sure this season they used last year's one-point loss at nationals as a prime motivator for these NCAA-II Championships at the CrossPlex Complex, where coach Brian Reynolds' squads again captured both the men's and women's national titles Saturday night.
 
The Drury men ran away with the meet for their ninth consecutive title, a record for an NCAA-II squad after pulling out of a tie with Cal State Bakersfield (eight straight from 1986-93). The Panthers finished with 546 points, easily outdistancing second-place Florida Southern (397). Incarnate Word (389) finished third, Grand Canyon (336) fourth and Wayne State (264) fifth.

And the DU women - one year after their heartbreak last March in Mansfield, Texas, where a tremendous last-day rally fell one agonizing point short to Wayne State - took control with strong swims in Saturday's prelims and didn't let up, closing out the meet with a national championship in the 400 Free Relay. 

The Drury women finished with 432.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Wayne State's 388. UC-San Diego (315) was third, followed by Incarnate Word (252) and Wingate (242.5) to complete the top five.
 
Remarkably, Drury is one point away last season from having swept the NCAA-II swimming and diving titles for five consecutive years, when four straight would have been unprecedented had the Panthers pulled it off last season.

But this current story might have even been better for the DU women, who suffered a pair of injuries before the meet started, battled a flu bug throughout the four days of competition and then wondered if their title run would go to waste after a potentially devastating disqualification in the 800 Free Relay last night.

Backstroker Chelsea Staab suffered a broken foot in Birmingham when slipping on the pool deck, but still competed. And arguably their top swimmer, sophomore Wai Ting Yu, suffered a torn knee (ACL) ligament just three weeks before nationals while running stairs in dry-land training.

"Janet," as she's known to her teammates, opted to postpone surgery until after the nationals to give it a go. 

And all she did was continue to pile up Top Five finishes, including a second in the 100 Free on Saturday before she joined Tinsley AndrewsLeah Reed and Tiffany Bell in the 400 Free Relay victory.

"I think Janet's effort epitomizes the girls and guys teams at Drury," said Reynolds, who was named both the National Men's and Women's "Coach of the Meet" award-winner in post-meet ceremonies.

"They always believe in each other, support each other and do the extra things necessary to win. That's exactly what Janet did. When a lot of people would have just given up, she hung in there.

"It speaks to the character of all these kids, the way they fought through illness and other obstacles, and I'm really proud of them. Most kids would use excuses and say 'this just wasn't our year,' but our group buckled down and got the job done."

Senior Deanna Sorenson, one of the squad's leaders, said "Janet's effort "was so inspiring to everybody. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be celebrating a national championship tonight if it weren't for her."

But Sorenson said the title process started a year ago, after the long bus ride home from Texas and the stunning loss by a point.

"That had so much to do with (this)," said the Springfield Glendale product. "From the next day after we lost last year, we were already gearing up to go back and win it. We made it through, and every girl on this team worked so hard for this. I'm so excited we did it."

Other top efforts for the DU women on Saturday included an eighth by Bell in the 100 Free, a fifth in the 200 Back by senior Molly Brown and a second from freshman Agnieszka Ostrowska in the 200 Breast. Laurel Bartholomew also finished eighth the 3-meter diving.

The DU men, meanwhile, rode the incredible efforts of senior Vladimir Sidorkin for one final time at nationals.

Sidorkin captured the 100 Free on Saturday (after winning the 200 Free title on Thursday), and again chased down a Bridgeport opponent to lead the Panthers to a record-setting 400 Free Relay title in Saturday's final event (just as he did in the 800 Free Relay a night earlier).

Stanislav KuzminNick McCarthy and Oleksandr Padalkin teammed with Sidorkin for a 2:55.26 clocking in the 400 Relay, beating the record 2:56.39 set in the morning prelims by Bridgeport.

Saturday stars for the DU men included a national championship from Daniel Swietlick and a fifth from Jordy Montseny in the 200 Back, an eighth in the 100 Free by Kuzmin and a fourth from Kacper Pelczynski in the 200 Breast. 

Reynolds said earlier this season that the 2012-13 men's squad might be his strongest in 30 years on the job at DU, and didn't back down from that comment on Saturday, praising the likes of a senior group including Sidorkin, Ryan ArabejoCory McVeyDwight Baker and others for leading yet another Panther group to the top step of the podium.

"I think it is (the best) ... it's just the simple fact that if this group was around four or five years ago, we'd have scored 600, 700 points," Reynolds said. "You go down the list and see all the prelims that were decided by hundredths of points to determine whether you were in the finals or watching them from the bleachers ... I've never seen the national meet as tight or as fast as it is now.

"These guys just kept laying down great swims time and time again, or we wouldn't have got it done. It really came down to these guys wanting to keep that tradition alive and not losing the team title."

The sweep included the 11th overall men's title and the ninth for the DU women since the program's moved to the NCAA-II level in 1994-95.

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