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A spirit that is not afraid

Women swim to lowest finish since 1999

The Auburn women's swimming and diving team took sixth place at the 2009 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships last weekend.

The competition was hosted by Texas A&M.

The Tigers accumulated a 281.5 point total, significantly trailing championship winner California (411.5), Georgia (400.5), Arizona (389), Stanford (312.5) and Texas (307).

The sixth-place finish was the lowest for Auburn since placing 11th in the 1999 NCAA Championships. This year also marks the first time since 2000 the Tigers leave the championships with no event titles.

However, Auburn earned 41 All-American honors spread among 11 swimmers, as well as setting 17 career bests. Auburn also set 19 top times for the season and broke three school records.

"It's been somewhat of an emotional weekend for these guys," said Auburn co-head women's coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. "I think we learned something about ourselves."

Junior Maggie Bird led the Tigers Saturday night, placing fourth in the 500m freestyle.

Bird swam a career best 15:52.35 for her second top-five finish of the championships and earned 15 individual points for the Tigers.

"It's really exciting," Bird said. "There's nothing like making finals - the intensity, the crowd. Everything makes you go that much faster."

Three Tigers also set career bests in the 200m backstroke qualifiers to advance to the finals. Junior Melissa Marik led Auburn in the finals with a 12th-place finish, followed by senior Julianne McLane in 14th and Rachel Goh 15th.

Impressive marks also came from younger swimmers.

True freshman Micah Lawrence placed fourth in the 200m breaststroke and earned the first All-American honor of her Auburn career.

Lawrence shattered the Auburn record in the preliminaries with a 2:08.9, a 4 second improvement over her top-time set against Florida Jan. 24.

Tierney-Walker said Lawrence's good swims throughout the weekend showed promise for future seasons.

"It was a great experience for Micah making finals in her freshman year," Tierney-Walker said. "It's something to build on for the future."

Auburn also shattered the school record in the 200m freestyle relay Friday night to open the competition.

Freshman Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, senior Emile Ewing, Marik and sophomore Caitlin Geary posted a 1:27.45.

The Tigers 400 freestyle relay team swam their second fastest time of the season. The team of Vanderpool-Wallace (48.02), Ohlgren (48.38), Marik (48.52) and Geary (47.83) hit the boards at 3:12.75, with Ohlgren swimming the fastest second leg of the season.

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Auburn held an 11.5 point lead over Texas for fifth place following the 200m fly Saturday. Auburn, however, lost it after the Longhorns gained quick points off the platform.

One point separated the frontrunners California and Georgia throughout the meet, with Arizona finishing in third place.

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