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March 09, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Stanford men surface with 24th crown Stanford men surface with 24th crown (March 09, 2005)

by Keith Peters

This was supposed to be the year The Streak ended. After 23 consecutive years of winning the Pac-10 championship meet title, the Stanford men's swim team was expected to be overthrown as king of the conference finals by none other than rival Cal.

Cal was, after all, the nation's No. 1-ranked dual-meet team. And it was the Bears who ended Stanford's streak of 38 straight dual-meet victories this season.

None of that matters, however, when it comes to the Pac-10 Championships. Stanford proved that for the 24th straight time by swimming (and diving) its way to 932.5 points at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach.

The 24 straight league titles is the longest streak by any team in any sport in conference history, and No. 24 was arguably the most unlikely.

"This is the greatest Pac-10 victory in all these years," said Stanford coach Skip Kenney, in his 26th year as head coach.

Added assistant coach Ted Knapp: "This was our best Pac-10 victory ever, because we weren't favored. They (Cal) had beaten us and they felt it was their year."

Stanford, however, wasn't ready to give up its crown. The Cardinal swam remarkably well, setting six school records, winning 10 events (including three relays) and putting themselves in position to challenge for the NCAA title when the championships begin March 24 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Stanford's winning point total was among the top four in conference history while Cal's second-place 882 points were the most ever. USC was a distant third with 579.

Stanford senior Gary Marshall was named Swimmer of the Meet after breaking his third Pac-10 record of the meet. Marshall won the 100-yard breaststroke in a U.S.-leading 52.55, breaking school and Pac-10 records. He won the 200 breast in a U.S.-leading 1:52.71, less than one-tenth of a second away from the American record. That too set school and Pac-10 records.

Marshall also swam on the winning 400 medley relay that broke school and Pac-10 records with a U.S.-leading time of 3:06.69. That reportedly is history's third-fastest time.

"We expected Gary to swim well this weekend, but he was just unbelievable," said Kenney.

In addition to Marshall, Stanford's other Pac-10 individual champions were Jayme Cramer (100 back, 200 fly), Tobias Oriwol (200 IM), Andy Grant (200 free) and Hongzhe Sun (200 back). The Cardinal also won the 200 medley and 800 free relays, taking the U.S. lead in the shorter event with a school-record 1:24.82.

Junior Michael McLean established a school record by winning the 500 free in 4:14.89 and sophomore Ben Wildman-Tobriner eclipsed the final school mark while taking third in the 100 free in 42.59.

The championship-winning finish was remarkable, given how the Cardinal began the season when injuries and illness sidelined returnees Dan Trupin, Keenan Newman and Palo Alto High grad Eric DiIlulio.

While Stanford was losing swimmers, Cal was adding them - including a number of Olympians. The Cardinal had no competitors from the 2004 Summer Games, few with any kind of international experience.

"We started the year off with our chins down and our shoulders slumped," said Knapp, who added that things changed by Christmas. "They made believers out of everyone on the staff and now they're making believers out of the rest of the nation."

Knapp said that one of the keys to the Pac-10 meet was depth, which included four divers for the first time. Given the option of bringing 19 swimmers and two divers or 18 swimmers and four divers, the Cardinal coaching staff chose the latter.

The diving was held a week earlier with Jesse Fonner, Kevin McLean, Nate Kim and Jeff Durbin producing enough points to give the Cardinal a hefty lead before the swimming portion of the championships began.

The Cardinal now prepare for the 2005 NCAA Championships. Stanford's automatic qualifiers include Daniel Beal (200 free), Cramer (100 fly, 100 back, 200 fly), Ricky Eddy (100 breast), Grant (200 free, 500 free), Marshall (100 breast, 200 breast), Matt McDonald (100 fly, 200 fly), Michael McLean (200 free, 500 free), Oriwol (200 IM, 400 IM), Shaun Phillips (200 free, 500 free), Mark Stephens (200 IM, 400 IM), Sun (200 IM, 100 back, 200 back) and Wildman-Tobriner (50 free, 100 fly, 100 free).

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