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Swimmers surprise themselves with early NCAA qualification

By Keith Carmona
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 8, 1998
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Coming out of what was dubbed as a preview for the NCAA Championships in March, UA swimming coach Frank Busch could not be happier with how his teams performed at the Texas Invitational last weekend.

"I think we did a great job overall. A lot of our kids qualified for the championships and everyone showed great effort," he said.

Over the weekend in Austin, the two teams combined for a total of 12 NCAA automatic qualifications, 11 separate event titles and established three new school records.

Heading up the accomplishments were two freshmen women, Sarah Tolar and Erin Vogt. "Our freshman girls were awesome," Busch said. "Sarah and Erin both broke records and were also strong in the relays."

Freshman Emily Mastin, who swam for an automatic qualification to the NCAAs in the 200-yard individual medley, said the invitational was nothing but a positive experience. "We amazed ourselves in a huge way," Mastin said. "As a team, we really functioned well; the whole weekend was fun."

The men's team had its own share of solid performances.

"The guys swam really hard, also," Busch said. "Matt Allen broke a school record and the relays proved that they're (the team) going to be real contenders at NCAAs."

Allen, a junior, broke the record for UA's 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1 minute, 46.54 seconds in the preliminary competition.

Also joining Allen at the NCAA championships will be fellow junior Nat Lewis, who notched his spot in the 1,650 freestyle (14:56.1).

"I was really happy with my performance, and with how the team faired," Lewis said. "The meet in Texas really set the tone for the rest of the year."

Lewis said he hopes the Texas meet will bring the country's attention to the UA swimming program.

"It should serve notice that Arizona swimming is around," he said.

Despite having a much better meet than expected, junior Jay Schryver said this weekend also showed some areas of needed improvement for the Wildcats.

"Individually, each of us has something to work on," Schryver said. "Over the break we are all going to focus on technique and prepare for the dual-meet season in front of us."

The Wildcats next return to action Jan. 16, when they battle rival Northern Arizona in Tucson.

In the meantime, the swimmers have 10 days off from practice, but then return to full training over the winter break.

"Training over Christmas will be great," Mastin said. "We will be able to completely focus on swimming as a top priority and not have to worry about school."

Mastin said the month off will help prepare for the dual-meets ahead and even postseason competition.

"With the progress we have made, and the way our teams work, there is no doubt in my mind that we can win the NCAA Championships," she said.

Keith Carmona can be reached via e-mail at