Mellouli Leads Trojans Into NCAA Championships
March 23, 2004
USC's men's swimming and diving team opens competition in the 2004 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships this week at the Nassau Long Island Aquatics Center in East Meadow, N.Y. The competition runs Thursday through Saturday (March 25-27). Prelims begin at 11 a.m. and finals begin at 7 p.m. each day (EST). Three-time 2004 Pac-10 title winner Ous Mellouli, 2004 senior co-captain Trent Staley and 2003 All-American diver Ray Vincent lead the eight-man contingent into New York this week.
USC NOTES USC sophomore Ous Mellouli swam in the shadow of fellow distant great Erik Vendt last year. Vendt won NCAA titles in the 500y and 1650y free and was second in the 400y IM. But now that Vendt has graduated, Mellouli has assumed the spot as the Pac-10's top distance swimmer and is among the best in the country. Mellouli ranks among the top in the nation in the 500y and 1650y free and the 400y IM and will challenge for titles in all three events. If he were to win a title, it would give USC at least one NCAA title in five consecutive years ... USC hasn't had two divers earn All-American honors in the same season since 1961, but junior Ray Vincent and freshman Michael Hilde could change that this year. Vincent was third on platform last year and seems posed again to repeat his top eight performance. Hilde has been USC's strongest springboard competitor all season and has a good shot to follow in Vincent's All-American footsteps ... USC has had at least one Hungarian All-American for seven consecutive years and could make it eight thanks to sophomore Viktor Bodrogi. A veteran international swimmer who has represented Hungary at the Olympics and World Championships, Bodrogi transferred to USC in the spring semester and quickly established himself as one of the Trojans' top swimmers. The previous Hungarian All-Americans for the Trojans were Mihaly Flaskay (2003), Tamas Kerekjarto (2000-02) and Bela Szabados (1997-99) ... USC returns three All-Americans from last year: Mellouli (500y free, 400y IM, 1650y free, 400y medley relay and 800y free relay), senior co-captain Trent Staley (800y free relay) and Vincent (platform) ... Half of USC's team is making its NCAA Championships debut: Viktor Bodrogi, Tyler Panos, Mike Kauffman and Michael Hilde ... Staley, though an All-American on a relay last year, is still looking to score individually for the first time at the NCAAs. This could be the year, with Staley entering the NCAAs among the top 15 swimmers in the country in both the 200 back and 500 free and among the top 20 in the 200 free ... USC's depth would have been more robust this year, but the Trojans are without top freshman Larsen Jensen, who decided to leave school for the spring semester to concentrate on his training for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Jensen, one of America's top distance swimmers, is near the top in the distance events even though he hasn't competed since December.
USC Coach Mark Schubert is in his 12th year at Troy. He will make his seventh consecutive Olympic coaching appearance in 2004 when he directs the U.S. women's team in Athens, Greece. Three years ago, he finished a stint as head coach of the U.S. men's swim team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Since he has been at USC, the men's and women's swimming programs are a combined 133-43. In his 33 years of coaching, Schubert has placed 28 swimmers on U.S. Olympic teams; these athletes have won 18 gold and eight silver medals, plus five world championship titles.
An NCAA champion and two-time Olympian, Hongping Li is in his fifth season coaching USC's men's and women's divers. Li, the winner of the 1998 and 1999 United States Olympic Committee's "Diving Developmental Coach of the Year," award, came to USC after serving as the head coach of the Mission Viejo (Calif.) Nadadores Diving Team since 1993. Li has had immediate and tremendous success in his first four years at USC. In 2003, he helped guide Blythe Hartley and Nicci Fusaro to All-American showings at the NCAA Championships. Hartley was a three-time All-American for the second year in a row while Fusaro earned All-American honors for the third year in a row. Hartley, the 2002 NCAA Women's Diver of the Year, repeated as Pac-10 Women's Diver of the Year and Li repeated as Pac-10 Women's Diving Coach of the Year. In 2002, Fusaro joined with Hartley to become USC's only two divers to earn All-American honors in all three diving specialties in one NCAA meet. In 2001, Li guided Kellie Brennan to a pair of All-American honors (and her third consecutive Pac-10 1-meter title) and Fusaro to her first All-American honor at the 2001 NCAAs. Both also reached the top three at the 2001 U.S. Indoor Championships.