UF women win NCAA swimming championship


Martyn Wilby, Shara Stafford
Martyn Wilby, Shara Stafford

Florida associate head coach Martyn Wilby, right, congratulates swimmer Shara Stafford after Florida won the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships in West Lafayette, Ind., on Saturday.

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Florida won its first women’s swimming and diving NCAA championship since 1982, holding off Stanford by 2 points in the second-closest finish in the history of the competition.

Florida finished with 382 points to Stanford’s 379.5 points. In 2006, Georgia beat Stanford by 1 points.

“It’s kind of a Cinderella finish,” Florida coach Gregg Troy said. “I can’t say enough about these girls. It was a total team effort.”

Florida came into the third and final day in fifth place with 236 points. Heading into the final event — the 400-yard freestyle relay — Florida had 350 points to Stanford’s 339.

“The NCAA is a relentless meet,” Stanford coach Lea Maurer. “This isn’t something you could begin to script in fiction. We just came up 2 points short, but it was a monumental finish.”

Stanford won the final relay event, adding 40 points, but Florida’s 32 points for a third-place finish was enough to keep the lead.

“We were close to perfect,” Maurer said. “There’s nothing I would change, I just wish I could give them a gold.”

Florida had Kara Salamone (16 points in third place) and Monica Dodson (11 points in eighth) pick up key points in the diving that made the difference between the Gators and Cardinal.

IUPUI’s Chen Ni was the first athlete to qualify for an individual NCAA championship appearance and won a national championship in the platform diving event after recording a 325.5.

Texas A&M’s Julia Wilkinson won the individual 100-yard freestyle championship after spending the past year recovering from shoulder surgery. She was injured at the 2008 Olympics.

Heading into the final two events of the evening, the Gators stood in fourth place behind Stanford, Arizona and California. A third-place finish in the women’s platform by senior Kara Salamone and an eighth-place standing from junior Monica Dodson propelled the Gators into first place with 350 points, jumping Stanford, Arizona and California, who had no platform divers, on the way.

Florida finished the 400-yard free relay in school-record fashion, led by seniors Liz Kemp and Gemma Spofforth, sophomore Shara Stafford and anchor leg, freshman Jamie Bohunicky, who clocked a 3:13.43 third-place finish.

“This day was an emotional roller coaster,” Spofforth said. “We didn’t really, honestly, think we were going to win and to come out with such a victory is a great feeling. We have a lot of great people behind us.”

Spofforth, who would have become the first four-time 200 back NCAA champion if she won, completed her career with seven national titles, including the 100 back Friday and as a member of the 200 free relay Thursday.

“Gregg and I talked about the diving on Saturday morning,” said UF dive coach Donnie Craine. “We thought that if we got one diver in the championships and one in the finals, we would be set up well for a third-place team finish. When both Kara and Monica made the championship, we knew if it all panned out right, we would have a shot at first. Our divers did absolutely fantastic.”

The University Athletic Association contributed to this report.

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