Men's swim coach Skip Kenney has a lot of reasons to be happy. His team won its 21st consecutive Pac-10 title, went undefeated in dual meets and won seven events at the NCAA championships. But this year, that wasn’t quite enough.
Edged by Texas 512-501 at the NCAAs in March, Kenney and his swimmers had trouble looking past a near-miss national title. “I think it’s the most frustrating NCAA championship I’ve ever attended,” says Kenney.
“It’s a bittersweet success,” adds sophomore Andrew Schnell. “I don’t think we have anything to be disappointed about, except the outcome.”
The Cardinal entered the NCAAs ranked No. 1 in the country, and with good reason. After compiling an 8-0 dual-meet record, the swimmers demolished the field at the Pac-10 championships, finishing 200 points ahead of second-place UC-Berkeley. They seemed to be peaking at the right time, particularly a group of sophomores who comprise perhaps the best men’s swimming class in years. Markus Rogan (an Olympian in Sydney for Austria), Pete Marshall, Michael Bruce, Bobby O’Bryan and Schnell, all of whom earned All-America honors last year as freshmen, dominated the Pac-10 meet by claiming seven individual and relay wins between them.
But at the NCAAs, Texas kept pace with Stanford in the pool and outflanked the Cardinal out of it, claiming two firsts and a second place in the diving events. Their 11-point victory margin was the narrowest for an NCAA champion since 1984.
“Maybe four or five hundredths [of a second] were the difference between those 11 points,” says Bruce.
A slew of individual wins propelled the Cardinal to the brink of the championship: Rogan touched first in the 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley, complementing Marshall’s victory in the 100 backstroke, Bruce’s school record in the 200 breaststroke, and the squad’s wins in the 200 and 400 medley and 200 freestyle relays.
“There are so many positives,” says Kenney. “Except the damn trophy’s still silver.”
Every point scorer from this year’s NCAA meet returns next season, so don’t bet on the team’s three-year title drought lasting much longer.
“These guys will respond,” says Kenney. “There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll win next year.”
—Jeff Cooper, ’01