Two For The Record Books (Men’s Swimming)

Brian T. Regan

By Brian T. ReganThe Daily Northwestern

In the final swim of his collegiate career, senior Matt Grevers did not disappoint. His leadoff leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay broke his Northwestern 100-yard free record with a time of 42.33 seconds.

And all that did was help the Wildcats claim a third-place finish in the event to end the NCAA championships in sixth place, their best finish in school history, while Auburn ran away with first.

The Cats’ 221 points were 14 ahead of Michigan, making them the top squad from the Big Ten and highest-placing cold-weather school, despite having two setbacks that could have cost them points.

“I think we swam well even though we had a couple of tough breaks,” coach Bob Groseth said. “It was discouraging, but as it turned out, it didn’t cost us a place.

“That was probably the most exciting part of the meet.”

While the Cats had success, they were robbed of more by two gaffes that disqualified the team from picking up more points.

Misfortune caught senior Mike Alexandrov in the 200-yard butterfly prelims when he was disqualified for a one-handed wall-touch.

Junior Bruno Barbic also left the blocks early in the 200-yard medley relay finals, taking away All-America honors from the quartet of Grevers, Alexandrov, Barbic and junior Kyle Bubolz.

Despite this, the Cats still triumphed by winning three NCAA championships.

Grevers became NU’s first three-time individual NCAA champion since Al Schwartz in 1930 by winning the 200-yard backstroke after winning the 100 back the past two years.

He missed a chance at a three-peat in the 100 back by 0.7 seconds and finished third behind Albert Subirats of Arizona and Big Ten champion Ben Hesen of Indiana.

Grevers regained his top form on the final day of competition to win the 200 back in 1:38.71, breaking his previous school record and claiming the fifth-fastest time in the history of the event.

Alexandrov claimed his first NCAA crown by winning the 100-yard breaststroke and set an NCAA record of 51.56 seconds, which had stood for 10 years.

The Cats set another NCAA record in the 400-yard medley relay with a time of 3:04.40, sending Grevers and Alexandrov out with a coveted relay victory.

“Matt sat them down in January to talk about going for the record,” Groseth said. “They set their goals high and lived up to that.”

Junior Kyle Bubolz, the two-time Big Ten champion in the 100-yard fly, beat his own time and placed fourth in the event.

“For any swimmer it is hard to not think you can go faster,” he said. “I had a lot higher hopes. But you can’t complain much about a best time.”

In their careers, the duo of Grevers and Alexandrov achieved 51 total All-America honors (27 for Grevers, 24 for Alexandrov), three backstroke NCAA titles by Grevers and one breaststroke NCAA title by Alexandrov.

Both swimmers look to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Alexandrov has a head start in high-level international competition. He earned a sixth-place finish in the 100 breast for his native Bulgaria at the World Championships in Australia on Monday.

Grevers, on the other hand, hasn’t decided how he will train for the next level.

“We decided that once we were done with the NCAA championships,” Groseth said, “we would sit down and talk about what was best for him in terms of training.”

Reach Brian T. Regan at [email protected]