UA’s Geer, Pickens earn titles at NCAA meet

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Margo Geer and Samantha Pickens captured individual national titles to lead the Arizona women’s swimming/diving team to a strong opening day at the 2013 NCAA Championships on Thursday night inside the IUPUI Natatorium in downtown Indianapolis. The Wildcats are in third in the team competition with 127 points, just behind Georgia (163) and Tennessee (150.5).

“Obviously Margo and Sam made a statement tonight,” head coach Eric Hansen said. “We just missed on a couple relays, but I’m really proud we put them both in the top three and it gives us some momentum heading into tomorrow. We positioned ourselves where I thought we could be after the first day — kind of a best case scenario. We look forward to seeing what we can do the next two days.”

Geer earned her first national championship after posting a time of 21.73 to win by .15 over Megan Romano of Georgia. Faith Johnson of Tennessee finished third with a time of 21.89. Geer became the first Wildcat to win the 50 free since Lara Jackson won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009. The junior first took third as a freshman, then finished runner-up to Liv Jensen of California last year.

Meanwhile, Pickens became the first Arizona female to win a national title in diving. Pickens was the top seed in the 1m prelims and scored 348.45 in the finals to take first place.

Arizona posted a third-place finish in the 200 free relay. Geer (21.71), Kait Flederbach (21.79), Megan Lafferty (21.53) and Alana Pazevic (22.48) clocked in with a time of 1:27.51, the team’s fastest of the year. Tennessee (1:27.14) took first and Georgia edged Arizona for second at 1:27.38.

Freshman Bonnie Brandon continues her impressive season by placing fourth in the 500 free with a time of 4:35.96, which ranks second in school history. Brandon knocked nearly three seconds off her previous best time.

The Wildcats closed out the night with a strong second place showing in the 400 medley relay as Lauren Smart (52.39), Ellyn Baumgardner (58.16), Lafferty (51.67) and Geer (46.61) clocked in with a time of 3:28.83 to finish just behind Tennessee.

Defending champion California is in fourth place with 102 points.

Olympian Caitlin Leverenz of Tucson repeated as the 200 IM champion but

didn’t come close to breaking the American record she set at last year’s

NCAA championships. She finished in 1:53.39, more than 1.5 seconds off

last year’s mark.