Auburn University won its first Men's NCAA Championships as the Tigers took the lead on the first day and never looked back. The national title marks the first championship for Auburn in any sport and just the second national title. The 1957 football team topped the Associated Press poll. Auburn will host the 1998 NCAA Championships as defending champion.
Auburn amassed 496.5 points after three days, well ahead of runner-up Stanford, with 340 points.
"To put it short, we were thrilled," said head coach David Marsh, voted NCAA Coach of the Year. "I've been excited for a couple of days now. I've only slept six hours the last two nights and normally I sleep very well.
"I'm most happy for our student-athletes," said Marsh. "Both the ones on this year's team and those before them that helped set this up."
Auburn's win was not suprising as it had been making steady progress—fourth in 1994, third in 1995, and second in 1996.
The team title was the result of sprinting strength and exceptional relay depth. The Tigers won four of the five relays.
On the first night, Auburn's Australian sprinter Brett Hawke won the 50 yard free in 19.19 (19.16 in the prelims). He became Auburn's first national champion since 1979, when Rowdy Gaines won the same event. Auburn took both relays on the first night: the 4x50 yard free and the 4x100 yard medley.
On the second night, Auburn solidified its lead with a win in the first event, the 4x50 yard medley relay, with Brett Hawke anchoring in 18.62, which is the fastest ever anchor leg. The medley relay time of 1:25.40 was an NCAA and U.S. Open record. The final event of the second night, the 4x200 yard free, had Michigan in first with Auburn second.
Auburn locked up the title on the final night with a win in the 4x100 yard free relay in 2:51.23, the second fastest time ever.
In a dramatic development, Neil Walker, a junior at Texas, broke two NCAA records on the first night, only to have to withdraw from the competition for the final day. Walker bettered the NCAA record in the prelims of the 50 yard free with a 19.08. Tom Jager has the fastest ever time of 19.05 from 1990. Walker then broke the 100 yard backstroke record with 44.92, swimming lead-off on the 4x100 yard medley. He bettered Brian Retterer's record of 45.43. He competed on the second day, winning the 100 yard backstroke in 45.25, but subsequently withdrew from the meet. X-rays revealed that he broke the third finger of his left hand.
The loss of Walker hurt Texas in the team race as they finished fourth, having battled for second with Stanford after the first day.
Other top performers included: Michigan's John Piersma, a senior, who won the 200 and 500 yard freestyle. Tennessee's Jeremy Linn, a junior, was a double winner in breaststroke after a rare in-season NCAA record in the 100 yard in February in 51.86. Linn's championship winning times were 52.32 and 1:55.27.
Southern Methodist had another double winner in Lars Frolander, a junior from Sweden, who took the 100 yard free in 42.89 and the 100 yard butterfly in 46.28, just off his 46.18 record from 1995.