March 16, 2007
MINNEAPOLIS -- The second day of the NCAA Championships provided Northwestern with an opportunity to claim its second title of the Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, and senior Mike Alexandrov (Champaign, Ill./Centennial) made the most of that opportunity, claiming the 100 breast crown by breaking the NCAA record for the event on Friday night.
Alexandrov, who won the bronze medal in the 100 breast in the same pool two years ago, broke Jeremy Linn's 10-year-old NCAA record of 51.86 seconds when he touched the wall with a time of 51.56 that also broke the U.S. Open record for the event. The Wildcats' closest competitor was Stanford's Paul Kornfield, who finished .63 seconds behind the new NCAA record-holder.
"This is something that I have been dreaming about for a long time," Alexandrov said. "When I was training with my breastroke squad, one day I just said, 'I am going to take the record down.' That was about mid-January, and ever since then I've had my eyes on it."
The Bulgarian native becomes Northwestern's 14th individual champion, and the Wildcats' first breaststroke champion since Don Horn won the 200 breast in 1933. He also becomes only the second Wildcat, along with teammate Matt Grevers (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest), to win an individual national championship since 1958.
With the victory, Alexandrov gave the Wildcats' 20 of the 51 points they scored on day two. With one day remaining in the Championships, Northwestern sits in sixth place with 157 points. The 'Cats are 42 points behind fifth-place Florida and 16 points ahead of seventh-place Michigan.
Auburn leads the Championships after day two with 380 points.
On Thursday it was the relays that led the charge for the Wildcats, but the individual events were where the 'Cats racked up their points on day two. Besides Alexandrov's victory, the 'Cats had two other top-four individual finishes during day two's finals.
But before the Wildcats' success in the individual events began, they had to deal with an unfortunate outcome.
Disaster struck the 'Cats in the first final of the evening, the 200 medley relay. In fourth place at the halfway point of the event, the Wildcats came on strong at the end and appeared to earn a second-place finish behind Auburn. However, Bruno Barbic (Zagreb, Croatia/V. Gymnazjia) left the starting blocks .06 seconds too early for his leg of the relay and as a result Northwestern was disqualified.
The disqualification cost Grevers, Alexandrov, Barbic and Kyle Bubolz (Waukesha, Wis./Waukesha North) the All-America honors they earned by qualifying for the finals of the relay.
Arizona and Texas also had swimmers leave the blocks too early as three teams were disqualified from the relay.
After the 400 IM finals where Northwestern had no swimmers, Bubolz helped the 'Cats begin to forget their disqualification by clocking a new Northwestern school record in the championship final of the 100 fly. The junior's time of 45.93 just edged his previous best of 45.96 and earned him a fourth-place finish -- the highest individual finish of his career at the NCAA Championships. Bubolz's finish also added 15 points to the Wildcats' team score.
Swimming in the lane adjacent to Bubolz, Arizona's Albert Subirats set a new NCAA record (44.57) to win the championship final in the 100 fly.
After Alexandrov's championship swim, Grevers jumped into the same lane Alexandrov swam to victory in, lane six, in search of his third consecutive NCAA championship in the 100 back.
Grevers gave it everything he had in the championship final, breaking his own Northwestern record with a time of 45.61. But it was not enough, as Arizona's Albert Subirats and Indiana's Ben Hesen beat him to the final wall. The senior's third-place effort added 16 points to Northwestern's team total.
The evening ended with the 800 free relay, where the 'Cats swam in the second heat. Daniel Walls (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino) and Adam Beckman (Kearney, Neb./Kearney) got their first experiences in the NCAA Championships, combining with Eric Nilsson (Weston, Mass./Weston) and Alexandrov to earn a 17th-place finish with a time of 6:33.18.
The final day of the Championships starts Saturday with preliminary heats beginning at noon. Northwestern has two top seeds in Saturday's events, as Alexandrov and Grevers hold the top seed in the 200 breast and 200 back respectively.
Real-time results for tomorrow's events can be found at NCAA Championships.