INDIANAPOLIS--About 400 miles southeast of St. Paul this weekend, Harvard earned another NCAA championship--one suited for much warmer climates.
At the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships held here at the Indiana University Natatorium, Harvard Co-Captain David Berkoff captured his second NCAA championship in three years, grabbing the gold medal in the 100-yd. backstroke and setting another national record.
Berkoff's victory, combined with his second place showing in the 200 backstroke, helped the Harvard men's swimming team finish in 17th place overall.
In the team scoring battle, the University of Texas claimed its second consecutive title. The Longhorns amassed 475 points in the three-day meet, easily besting runner-up Stanford, which earned 396 points. In a surprise finish, Michigan grabbed third (315 points), while UCLA took fourth (313.5) and Southern California was fifth (304).
Harvard led all Eastern scorers with a total of 73 points. Princeton grabbed the 21st position with 59.5 points, Penn State took 33rd place (nine points) and Pittsburgh tied for 40th (two points).
As a result, the Crimson emerged as the only Eastern and nonscholarship team represented in the national top 20. It also gained some revenge on the Tigers, who earned their third straight Eastern Championship this season.
Additionally, four Harvard swimmers received All-America honors, the most ever in Coach Joe Bernal's 11-year reign. Berkoff, Co-Captain Keith Kaplan and sophomores Jonathan Manson and Greg Tull each earned theaward, thanks to the Crimson's fifth-place finishin the 200 medley relay.
After the meet, Bernal was elated with histeam's performance.
"We showed that this group was better than mostpeople originally thought," Bernal said. "It was agreat way for the seniors to finish their careersand the underclassmen realized that they can swimwith the best in the country."
In the 100 backstroke, Berkoff was expected tobe challenged by the Stanford duo of Jay Mortenson(last year's champion) and freshman Jeff Rouse,along with Tennessee's Melvin Stewart.
But the Olympic gold medalist started outstrong, touching at the halfway point in a blazingtime of 21.85 seconds. In the second half, Berkoffgot even stronger, finishing in a time of 47.02seconds, more than three-tenths of a second fasterthan his old American and NCAA record of 47.33 andmore than a second ahead of the rest of the field.
The swim marked the fourth time in the past twomonths that Berkoff has broken the American recordin the 100 backstroke. Also, for the first timesince the institution of the butterfly as anofficial stroke in 1958, the winning NCAAbackstroke time was faster that the first-placetime in the butterfly race.
In the 200 backstroke, however, a slow startprevented Berkoff from catching Rouse in the finalyards, forcing him to settle for second in a timeof 1:45.88. Nonethless, the swim was a big jumpfor Berkoff, whose best previous finish in theevent was seventh.
"I'm more relieved right now than anything,"Berkoff said at the conclusion of his final meet."Everybody expected me to win again and added alot of pressure, but I'm happy that everythingfinished on such a position note. It was alsogreat for the other guys on the team to do so wellin our relay, because it really was a teameffort."
In that race, Berkoff, Manson, Tull and Kaplantouched in a 1:29.78 time, placing ahead ofpowerhouse teams from USC and Cal-Berkeley. But ina huge upset, Princeton claimed the gold medalwith a time of 1:28.36.
The Tiger victory marked the first time in 28years that an Ivy League school has won a relay inthe NCAA meet. Princeton had not won an NCAA relaysince 1939.
The Crimson qualified for the evening finals inthird position behind Stanford and Texas.Additionally, its morning time of 1:29.08established a new NCAA meet record until theCardinal squad bettered the mark one heat later.
Other Harvard finishes included 13th place inthe 200 freestyle relay (Kaplan, Berkoff, Tull,freshman Kevin Williams) and 17th place in the 400freestyle relay. Paul Watson and Chris Kovacs swamboth backstroke events for the Crimson, but didnot qualify for the finals.
Despite Berkoff's strong performance in thebackstroke races, USC sophomore David Whartonearned Swimmer of the Year honors. Wharton was theonly other individual to set an American record inthe meet, finishing first in both the 200 and 400individual medley and third in the 200 butterfly.
The NCAA meet marked the end of the collegiatecareers of both Berkoff and Kaplan.
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