March 25, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -
The preparation is over, now it's time for five Alabama swimmers and one diver to measure themselves against the nation's best as the NCAA Championships get underway Thursday at Texas A&M's Student Rec Center Natatorium.
"We've worked hard all season pointing toward this meet and we are ready to get going," Alabama head coach Eric McIlquham said. "We've got a chance to do some damage and score some big points with this group of guys."
The Crimson Tide's swimming contingent includes three that are ranked in the top 25 of the 500 freestyle while junior Aaron Fleshner, the 2009 Southeastern Conference Diver of the Year, should contend for a title.
A two-year All-American, Fleshner, a two-time SEC champion, finished third off the three-meter board at last year's NCAA Championships and was seventh off the three-meter at last summer's U.S. Olympic Trials.
All-Americans Mark Randall and Catalin Cosma along with freshman Joe Ziegler will swim the 500 freestyle with Randall seeded 13th, Cosma 18th and Ziegler 23rd.
Randall, the school record holder in the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyles, is making his return to the NCAA Championships after redshirting last season to train for the Olympic Games. In addition to the 500, he is swimming the 1650 freestyle, where he is seeded 10th, and the 200 freestyle.
Cosma, who finished seventh in the mile at last year's NCAA Championships, is ranked 26th coming into this year's championships. Ziegler also qualified in the 200 freestyle and the 200 backstroke. The rookie is the school record holder in the 200 backstroke. Sophomore Denes Zubcsek, making his NCAA Championship debut, is seeded 15th in the 200 butterfly. He also qualified in the 100 butterfly and the 200 freestyle.
The Tide's school record 800 freestyle relay of Cosma, Ziegler, Zubcsek and All-American Alin Mihalca also looks to score at the championships. The foursome broke the previous school mark, set in 1983, during the Southeastern Conference Championships last month.
Randal, Cosma and Ziegler will compete in the 500 freestyle and Fleshner off the one-meter board on Thursday, the championships' first day.