WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
On Tuesday, two days before the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving championships were set to begin, 18 athletes and one coach were stricken by illness.
The unexpected development may have a huge impact on the meet that was scheduled to officially begin Thursday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio but has now been postponed to Friday at noon.
An emergency coaches’ meeting was held Wednesday night to discuss options and to enable the swimmers to have an added day to recover. One possibility was to hold Thursday’s events as timed finals.
Members of three of the top teams in the field, Arizona, Texas and Stanford were stricken with a gastrointestinal illness and taken to the Ohio State University Medical Center and Ohio State Sports Medicine Center.
The cause has yet to be determined, however all three teams were on the same flight headed to Columbus.
In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon by the media relations department at Ohio State, the NCAA, host college Ohio State and university’s hospital and local Ohio health department said they are looking into what caused the sickness.
Health officials have already investigated and approved the venue and facilities for use for the meet. At this time, doctors and medical personnel are also working on preventive measures to ensure no other people involved with the meet are stricken.
Nine Arizona swimmers and others from Stanford and Texas were taken to the university hospitals. No names were released due to privacy regulations.
The affected swimmers have not been allowed into the venue by the Centers for Disease Control.
Defending champion Auburn has won six of the last seven men’s titles. Arizona came to the meet as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team. Sixth-ranked Auburn, inspired last year by the late coach Richard Quick’s battle with an inoperable brain tumor, is expected to give Arizona a run for its money.
Texas, Stanford, California and Florida are ranked second through five in the coaches’ poll and will also challenge for the title.
“There are five teams that really could win it,” said Auburn coach Brett Hawke. “Texas is the favorite and deserves to be. They have got great athletes on their team.”
“I think Texas is the team to beat,” Arizona coach Frank Busch said. “They are very, very good.”
A total of 270 participants will compete in the championships. Student-athletes qualified for the swimming portion of the championships by meeting the established minimum time for the events they entered.
No swimmers from Coral Springs Swim Club or the Comets Swim Team are competing but the Florida Gold Coast will be well-represented by Joey Pedraza, Shaune Fraser and Jeff Raymond of the Florida Gators and Hunter Lainhart of Georgia and diver Ruben Ross of University of Miami.
NCAA.com will stream the Friday session at noon and both Saturday sessions at noon and 7 p.m. ESPN2 will air a 90-minute show at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org