Austin Surhoff makes splash in leading Texas to crown

Win by former Oriole's son boosts Longhorns at NCAAs

March 31, 2010|By Mike Klingaman |

His father was an Orioles standout; his mother, a world-class swimmer. With that pedigree, was it any surprise that Austin Surhoff led Texas to the NCAA Division I men's swimming and diving team championship in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend?

Surhoff, 19, a freshman from St. Paul's, was Texas' only individual winner, taking the 200-yard individual medley by a scant .004 of a second. His victory early in the meet buoyed the Longhorns' hopes and powered them to their 10th NCAA title.

With his parents, B.J. Surhoff and the former Polly Winde, in the stands, Surhoff touched the wall a whisker in front. Then he faced his Texas teammates and pumped his fist in triumph.

"Mom was cheering so hard, she fell over twice," he said. "Dad was very reserved and steely-faced, but he told me how proud he was."

B.J. Surhoff played 19 years in the big leagues, eight of them with Baltimore, and was recently inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. His wife, Polly, won a silver medal at the 1983 Pan Am Games and is a member of the Maryland Swimming Hall of Fame.

As a youth, Austin Surhoff prepped at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, home to Olympic champion Michael Phelps and silver medalist Katie Hoff. His victory in the NCAAs, coupled with a sixth-place finish in the 200 backstroke, should boost Surhoff's bid to compete in the 2012 Games, Texas coach Eddie Reese said.

"This win points him in the right direction," said Reese, a three-time U.S. men's Olympic team head coach. "Austin has an explosive ability that is rare among swimmers, and he's very tough.

"He needs a little technique refinement, but this kid is a great fighter. No matter if he's tired - if he decides that a guy isn't going to beat him, it doesn't happen."

Pre-race jitters nearly did him in at the championships, Surhoff said.

"I had big butterflies. [A teammate] had to keep me from vomiting in the ready area," he said.

"Everyone else was in a race mode, beating on their chests. But if the camera had been on me before the start, you would have seen a big, stupid grin on my face before we were called up on the blocks."

In victory, Surhoff's grin got wider.

The win won't go to his head, he said.

"I have a long way to go. My time [1:42.95] was two seconds slower than that of last year's winner," Surhoff said.

"My dad taught me that it's harder to stay on top than it is to get to the top. I'm going to take that to heart."

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