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MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2007
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AU swimmers bask in glow of another NCAA crown

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Auburn’s women finished off a trying season the only way the Tigers know how to — by winning a national championship.

The Tigers were propelled by a superior performance in the final day’s preliminaries to win the women’s team championship for the fifth time in six years, scoring 535 points. Arizona placed second with 477.

“The prelims were utterly amazing this morning,” Auburn coach David Marsh said. “Every one of our girls moved on to the second swim, except one that was disqualified. We make a goal of that, but to accomplish that is phenomenal.

“They came out and had no doubt we would have our best day this last day.”

There was no shortage of motivation for Auburn heading into this week’s championships at the University of Minnesota. The team lost distance swimming coach Ralph Crocker to cancer in January, and after 17 years at the helm of the Tigers’ men’s and women’s teams, Marsh is stepping down after next week’s men’s championships.

“We have overcome so many obstacles as a team this year,” senior Hayley Peirsol said.

“I have never been so proud to be a part of this team than I am this year.

Trailing Arizona after each of the first two days of competition, Auburn took the lead for good in the first finals event of the night. The Tigers placed three swimmers in the top 9 of the 1,650-yard freestyle.

Piersol defended her individual title in the event by winning with a time of 15 minutes, 45.92 seconds. She was followed in second place by teammate Adrienne Binder.

“How apropos is it that we win this championship through the distance events, which isn’t supposedly what we are known for,” Marsh said.

Of the 19 athletes — 17 swimmers and two divers — which made the championships, each earned at least one All-American honor. Auburn set eight school records at the meet.

Arizona had placed third the last three seasons.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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