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Eighth national title belongs to Auburn

Auburn co-head mens coach Brett Hawke hold the NCAA National Championship trophy.
Auburn men NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday, March 28, 2009 in College Station, TX. Finals
Todd Van Emst
Auburn co-head mens coach Brett Hawke hold the NCAA National Championship trophy. Auburn men NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday, March 28, 2009 in College Station, TX. Finals Todd Van Emst

The men's swimming and diving team traveled to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, last weekend ready to win.

And win they did.

The Tigers came away from the 2009 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship with their eighth national title.

"To win a national championship is an incredible feeling that I can't begin to describe," said senior Logan Madson. "I have a strong feeling of relief and happiness that we accomplished what we did."

Though Auburn entered Saturday's finals trailing Texas by six points, they came from behind to win the meet with 526 points, followed by the Longhorns with 487.

The Auburn swimmers came out swimming strong during Saturday morning's prelims.

Jared White led the Tigers in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:40.21, dropping five seconds off his personal best time.

"When the team saw that, they were fired up," said co-head coach Brett Hawke. "I knew then it was going to be a great morning for us."

The Tigers' strong performance during the morning preliminaries gave them a good chance at gaining points during the last night of the meet's finals.

"Our goal was to get as many numbers through to the finals as we could," Hawke said. "It was a total team effort. Everyone stepped up."

Auburn's presence during Saturday night's finals began with the 200-yard backstroke.

Junior Pascal Wollach took fourth with a time of 1:39.55. The 100-yard freestyle was next with senior Matt Target placing third and junior Gideon Louw taking eighth.

After the 200-yard breaststroke in which sophomore Adam Klein placed second and set a new school record hitting the wall at 1:53.44, the Tigers took the lead and kept it for the remainder of the meet.

Madson and junior Tyler McGill dominated the 200-yard butterfly, placing third and fifth. Juniors Dan Mazzaferro and Kelly Marx placed tenth and eleventh in the diving finals. The Tigers sealed the championship and ended the meet with a first place finish in the 400 free relay.

On the road to victory, the eighteen Auburn swimmers competing in the meet combined for, one individual title, three relay titles, three U.S. Open records, three NCAA records, and 17 school records.

Though the Tigers trailed behind Texas Thursday and Friday, the first two days of the meet were full of Auburn successes as well.

Auburn took the title in the 200-yard free relay Thursday, setting a new NCAA record and U.S. Open record with a time of 1:14.08. The Auburn swimmers also won the 400-yard medley relay in a race that was close until the end. The relay was anchored by Targett, who swam ahead of Stanford during the last 25 yards of the race.

"Once Matt's in the lead, he's not going to give that one up," Hawke said. "I felt very confident coming into the last turn that he was going to get the job done."

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On day two of the championships, sophomore Kohlton Norys won the 100-yard backstroke in a close race with a time of 45.26, claiming the first national title in that event in Auburn history. Norys out-touched Cal's David Russel by .04 seconds.

"I knew it was a close race, and when I turned at the 50, I saw someone ahead of me," Norys said. "I just tried to get my hand there first. It was nice to win my first individual Gold Medal. It was a proud moment to be up on the awards stand in the top spot."

Marx set a school record in the 3-meter springboard diving with 454.85 points. The Tiger's 200-yard medley relay team also obtained a national title and broke the NCAA record with a time of 1:22.36.

Winning the national title was the perfect end to the Tiger's season after claiming their 13th consecutive SEC championship title in Auburn.

"It was a memorable senior year," said senior Matt Targett. "This year was a total team effort. Last year we had a few superstars. This year we have an entire team of stars."

The team suffered an emotional setback when head coach Richard Quick was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in December. Though Quick was unable to attend the championship, his team had him in mind as they swam their way to victory.

"Richard Quick was a massive part of what we accomplished," Targett said. "He isn't here, but we did this for him more than ourselves. We wanted to win his first men's championship for him."

Though Quick has won 12 other national titles coaching at Stanford and Texas - this was his first for Auburn. His swimmers were proud to win it for him and knew they could do it all along.

"People thought we peaked at SECs," Hawke said. "We knew as a team we hadn't. This is just a great way to finish the meet."

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