Freshman Shatters Record at NCAAs

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Ask any devout Cal sports fan and they'll tell you the same thing - Matt Biondi is the fastest sprinter to grace the waters of Spieker Pool in Cal history.

With eight Olympic gold medals to his credit and numerous NCAA titles, Biondi left some big shoes to fill, and they've sat vacant for the past decade or so.

A healthy grace period, but it may be coming to an end. There's a new kid on the block and he's well on his way to setting a new sprint standard for the Cal men's swimming team.

At the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis last weekend, freshman Anthony Ervin captured two individual national titles in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, breaking the U.S. Open, American, NCAA and world records in the 50 free.

"I totally didn't expect it," Ervin confessed. "I'm pretty much over it now, but when I think about it it's hard to believe."

As a team, the Bears took fifth at the NCAA championships. Texas captured the national championship this year with 538 points, finishing way ahead of the rest of the field. Cal missed the fourth place spot by half a point, scoring 279 points to Stanford's 279.5.

"It's kind of bittersweet," Cal head coach Nort Thornton said. "You look back and wonder what you could've done to get that one point somewhere. You just can't control what the other teams do."

Cal's sprint core powered the team to its fifth-place finish. The Bears consistently placed all their sprinters in the top eight spots of each sprint event.

The 50 free was a spectacular race, with Ervin touching out Arizona's Roland Schoeman by a hundredth of a second to set every record in the books. Senior Bart Kizierowksi came in fourth with a 21.50 and sophomore Matt Macedo took sixth (21.66).

The 100 free was a real coup for the Bears - Ervin snuck past the competition in the outside lane to capture his second national title and set another U.S. Open record (47.36). Kizierowski, the defending champ in the 100 free, finished third with a 47.76 with Macedo close on his heels (47.77).

"At the beginning of the season I was just hoping to make NCAAs," Ervin said. "By Pac-10s I was hoping I'd make finals, maybe place in the top-eight.

"I think my improvement came mostly from the program. The coaches and the team are great to train with. I don't think I'd have been able to do it if I wasn't here."

Due to the structure of the meet, Ervin swam 12 races. He swam both individual races and all four relays twice in the qualifying and final segments of the meet.

"We're really proud of Anthony," Bottom said. "He really stepped it up in the individual events but we're particularly proud of the way he swam in the relays."

Cal's performances in the relays also bespoke of the Bears' sprinting power.

Ervin, Macedo, Scott Greenwood and Kizierowksi took second in the 200 freestyle relay (1:25.21), just behind Auburn (1:25.14), the NCAA's other sprint powerhouse.

Cal's 400 free relay team captured another national title and U.S. Open record for the Bears. Macedo, Ervin, Kizierowski and Lars Merseburg swam a 3:11.25 to win the final event of the meet.

The Bears' success wasn't all about the five sprinters, though.

Senior Steve Messner closed out his Cal career with a seventh-place finish in the 100 breastroke (1:01.13), far surpassing his performances in previous years.

"Steve's a wonderful success story," Thornton said. "He's been here for four years and bounced on and off the track towards doing something really good.

"This was his first NCAA appearance and it was great to see it all come together for that final meet. I'm real happy for him."

Senior Ratapong Sirisanont placed high in the 200 breastroke, taking seventh with a 2:10.68, and Kizierowski finished fifth in the 100 backstroke.

The medley relays swam good races as well. The 400 medley squad (Macedo, Kim, Kizierowski and Ervin) won the consolation finals to place ninth with a 3:35.29.

The 400 medley relay team of Macedo, Messner, Mereseburg and Ervin did substantially better, swimming a 1:37.24 to take fifth.

Cal's 800 freestyle relay team of Joe Bruckart, Kizierowski, Mickey Murad and Will Quist finished 11th (7:16.99).


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