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Schmitt & Georgia Crew Show Bulldog Spirit

Mar 24, 2013  - Craig Lord

Georgia, with Olympic 200m freestyle champion Allison Schmitt at the helm, took the women's NCAA crown for the first time since 2005 after three days of racing in Indianapolis.

The top three: Georgia - 477 points; Cal - 393; Tennessee - 325.50.

Before the last relay but after it became clear that the Lady Bulldogs took the team title ahead of defending national champion Cal, head coach at Georgia Jack Bauerle was heading for a swim of his own, swamped as he was with slaps on the back, hand shakes and, apparently, a bucket of sports drink over his head.

In the last relay, the result was sealed by Allison Schmitt, Megan Romano, Shannon Vreeland and Chantal van Landeghem set a record of 3:09.40 in the 4x100y free. National teamsters Schmitt, third leg, and Romano, anchor, did the damage that might have been expected of swimmers of their calibre, their swims taking the Bulldogs past Cal and Arizona. The NCAA Open record had stood to Cal at 3:09.88 since 2008.

Georgia had finished runner-up to Cal for the past two year. Schmitt, who took a London 2012 break from college last season while training over in Baltimore with coach Bob Bowman, returned for a last NCAA season to help her teammates lift the biggest prize in college swimming in the US.

"I‘m so excited to finally accomplish it. It‘s a dream come true," said Schmitt through the NCAA after the relay. it. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 200y free, Schmitt returned to the top of the free in her best event an Olympic champion - and didn't disappoint. She claimed back the crown in 1:41.85 and ends her college career with six NCAA titles, three each in the 200 and 500 freestyles and a member of five winning relays.

Those included the 4x200y free this year, Schmitt joined by fellow London 2012 gold-medal winning teammate Vreeland, Romano and Brittany MacLean (CAN) for a 6:54.43 victory. Georgia has now won the 800 freestyle relay four consecutive seasons. 

Bauerle has seen much success in his time but the good feeling never goes away, each passing generation a new challenge, a fresh thrill. He said: “To win this feels great. I’m happy for the seniors especially. This is really a special feeling it puts inside.”

There were other national teamsters in the mix and setting new standards: Cal freshman Elizabeth Pelton led from go to gold and an NCAA record of 1:47.84 in the 200y backstroke. The standard had stood to Gemma Spofforth (world record holder, 100m and the former world champion who celebrated three 200y wins for the Florida Gators at NCAA among other achievements for the Brit based in Gainesville), now retired. Pelton had set an American record of 1:48.39 as a warning earlier this month. 

With Olympic champion Missy Franklin heading to college and Cal next season, perhaps we can expect the times to be a' changin'.

Meanwhile, focus in the US shifts to the international arena, trials and the World Championships in Barcelona this summer on the back of a dominant US show at London 2012, men and women.