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Watch out for the little sports


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chris Jackson

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat, October 27, 1999 Talk about this story

Lost amid the bright glare from the men's basketball team and the football team, there are 16 other Division I teams at this university.

And some of them are pretty darned good.

The UA men's and women's swimming teams are about to start up their seasons this Saturday at UNLV.

In case anyone didn't notice, the Wildcat swimmers are good; real good. The women are ranked No. 2 in the country and the men are No. 4.

Last year the women were fourth at nationals, while the men were fifth. Both teams return this year virtually intact, with the women bringing back 11 All-Americans and the men returning with 12 All-Americans.

Plus, the women's team added two 1996 Olympic gold medalists as freshman.

Repeating that, the UA women's team added two Olympic gold medalists.

And the men's team isn't a bunch of slouches, either. With another year of valuable experience under their belts, the men are definitely NCAA championship contenders, as are the women.

The men are led by uber-swimmer Ryk Neethling, a South African who has won three NCAA individual championships the last two years in a row. If he pulls that off again this year-barring the world ending with the turn of the century-Neethling will officially be anointed as one of the greatest NCAA swimmers of all time.

He already is one of the greatest. He was the NCAA Swimmer of the Year in 1999 and he could still ascend to an even higher level of greatness.

His teammates, some of whom have their own legitimate NCAA title aspirations, should feed off Neethling and give No. 1 Stanford and the other contenders a serious run for their money. They'll need to do it this year as the senior class, 10 swimmers total, is the largest in head coach Frank Busch's 11 year history at UA.

As for the women, in addition to adding those medalists, Beth Botsford and Amanda Beard, they also have seniors Trina Jackson and Denali Knapp and sophomores Sarah Tolar and Erin Vogt back, giving them the depth to challenge No. 1 Georgia, the defending champion, for the NCAA title.

Come March, the Wildcat men and women could pull off a remarkable sweep at the NCAA Championships.

Two other impressive "little" teams at UA are the men's cross country team and the women's golf team.

The UA golfers are off to another good start and are looking for their second NCAA title. Arizona started off the season ranked No. 2 in the country behind defending champion Duke, but head coach Todd McCorkle was so bold as to say he and his team think they are better than the Blue Devils and will claim the title this spring.

The men's cross country team has quietly evolved into a dominant force in the Pacific 10 Conference, led by senior Micheil Jones.

Just like the UA women's team did last year, the men's team this year has a chance to knock off perennial Pac-10 power Stanford. The Wildcats came close to pulling that off on the Cardinal's home course earlier this season and will get at least two more shots in the Pac-10 Championships and Western Regional Championships.

And lest anyone forget about them, the UA women's basketball team should make a run at the Pac-10 title and the softball team will be, surprise, pretty serious contenders as well.

So much for men's basketball being the only thing to look forward to in the months to come.

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