2006 WOMEN’S NCAA CHAMPIONS The 2005-06 Tigers were ready for a battle at the NCAA Championships and were dressed accordingly in blue fatigues. As the No. 2 ranked team all season behind host-Georgia, the pressure was finally off the Tigers, after being the team to beat for the previous four years. “We know we are the underdogs coming in,” junior Hayley Peirsol said. “There isn’t any pressure on us. It is just fun. It is just swimming for us.” Even with the pressure supposedly off, the Tigers were still in pursuit of their fourth NCAA title in the last five years and winning would mean snapping Georgia’s 50 straight victories in Gabrielsen Natatorium. Auburn 2006 Auburn Titles had 17 swimmers and two divers competing • Rachel Goh (the only team in the nation to qualify a full 100 Back squad), two more than Georgia and three more than No. 3 Arizona. • Hayley Peirsol Of the six events contested on day one, 1650 Free five of them were won by Arizona or Georgia competitors. Arizona, who according to the official psyche sheet, was not expected to finish in the top-five saw themselves in the lead after wins in the 200 free relay, 200 IM and 400 medley relay. It was an orange and blue clad 500 free final as three AU competitors graced the field of eight, each posting lifetime best swims in the morning prelims. Peirsol lowered her career best in the final to grab the runner up spot with a time of 4:41.78. Adrienne Binder ended up fourth and Chelsea Haser seventh as the trio earned 44 points in that event alone. The Tigers kept mounting up the points in the 200 IM with Emily Kukors in third, Julie Stupp in seventh and Lauren Duerk in ninth. In the 500 free and 200 IM alone, the Tigers racked up 54 percent of their day one point total. At the end of the first day, AU trailed Arizona by 10 and led Georgia by four points. Day two opened with a disappointing fifth place finish in the 200 medley relay, but sophomore Julie Stupp sparked energy in her Tiger team as she battled to a runner-up finish in the 400 IM (4:09.22) and was surrounded by two teammates in the championship final. In the next three events Georgia outscored Auburn by 90 points and controlled the leader board and the top spot on the podium. Bulldog stars Kara Lynn Joyce and Mary DeScenza continued to thrive in their home pool, each picking up an NCAA individual title on day two. The Tigers would save the best for last on day two in the remaining two individual events events, 100 back and 3-meter diving. After nearly two days of competition, the Tigers finally crowned their first national champion of the meet as freshman Rachel Goh became the first Auburn female to win the NCAA 100 back title. Following Goh’s triumphant performance, classmate Corey Gerlach garnered the attention on 3-meter springboard. With each dive Gerlach improved and ended up third, the highest finish for any Tiger freshman on 3-meter. With one day remaining Auburn found themselves trailing the Bulldogs by 53 points. The Tigers would have to pull off their best final day ever to have a shot at the national crown. The battle for the title would begin in morning prelims. On Saturday morning the gamefaces were on and the letters “YAHM” were 2006 NCAA Results 1. Auburn 518.5 2. Georgia 515.5 3. Arizona 415 4. California 291 5. Stanford 209 6. Southern Cal 193 7. SMU 161.5 8. Texas 151 9. Wisconsin 146 10. Florida 135
Hayley Peirsol won her first NCAA individual title, winning the 1,650 free.
proudly displayed on every woman. The letters stood for, “You Always Have More,” and the Tigers would live up to that slogan as they returned every swimmer from the prelims to finals and consols (Georgia had just seven). “They were sky high after the morning session,” Marsh said. “They rode that momentum right into the finals.” The night started off with a bang from the distance free trio of Peirsol, Binder and Haser. Peirsol became Auburn’s first national champion in the 1650 free and teammates Binder and Chelsea were third and 13th, respectively. The 40 points from the 1650 free helped move the Tigers within 33 points of UGA. After 39 points from the 200 back compared to Georgia’s 17, Auburn pulled within reach, needing just 11 points to tie with five events remaining. It wouldn’t take long for Auburn to pull even with Georgia after mounting 31 points from three competitors in the 100 free, even though UGA’s Joyce was the overall winner. En route to evening the slate at 436, Kukors broke a three-year old AU record in the 100 free (48.52) to finish fourth. Auburn opened up a 469.5-447.5 advantage after the 200 breast, a race in which newcomer Alicia Jensen would put it all on the line and take third, breaking the oldest AU record on the books (2:10.81). Georgia pulled within five after DeScenza won the 200 fly and another competitor fifth, even though AU had three swimmers in consol’s. With the gap so close and only the 400 free relay remaining, only one thing was certain- the team race would come down to the final event. If you owned a calculator in those finals minutes leading up to the 400 free relay, the keys were probably overworked. After the numbers were tabulated, the scenario played out as follows: for AU to win they would need to finish third or better and have Arizona finish in front of Georgia. For UGA to defend its championship, only one scenario would lend that end result - win the relay. Georgia led after DeScenza’s first leg but Arizona’s Jenna Gresdal passed Tricia Harm to take a .80 lead on UGA after the second leg (AU in third). The Wildcats increased the lead by 1.12 after a strong third leg by Whitney Meyers. It would come down to the anchor - Lacey NyMeyer versus superstar Joyce. Both swam a blistering final leg and Joyce pulled within reach of NyMeyer with less than 25 yards to go, but NyMeyer would stretch in for the win and the Tigers would end up third, in the relay that is. “When we hit the wall, there was pandemonium,” Marsh said. “The entire building knew what was at stake.” As the Tigers rejoiced in their fourth national title, senior Jeri Moss was reassuring anchor Kukors that indeed the Tigers had pulled off the miracle - they had won the battle. “The passion, heart, fire and everything that went into that championship was wrapped up on my teammates faces at the end of the meet,” Moss commented. In the second-closet margin of victory in the 25 years of the women’s NCAA Championships, the Tigers stood first on the podium with 518.5 points , just three ahead of Georgia. With tears in their eyes and smiles as wide as their faces would allow, the 2006 Auburn women’s team knew they have pulled off the impossible and were part of a very special moment in Tiger swimming and diving championship history. “I have never experienced anything that thrilling,” Marsh said. “It wasn’t just the last relay, it was the last day. That is the best day we have ever had in Auburn swimming.” - by Carol White, Auburn Media Relations
Auburn women celebrate a down-to-the-wire victory.
2010-11 Auburn Swimming & Diving Guide