Four Towson swimmers ready for NCAA championships

Tigers hope to thrust program onto national radar

March 16, 2011|By Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun

The Towson women's swimming team will be well represented starting Thursday at the NCAA championships in Austin, Texas.

Seniors Meredith Budner, Brooke Golden and Kayla Zeller will be joined by junior Cari Czarnecki in competing for the Tigers on a national stage.

"I think we're going to put Towson on the map and show the world that this is a really good swimming program," said Budner, the school's lone NCAA participant for the past two seasons.

After competing in the 500-yard freestyle, 1,650-yard freestyle and 400-yard individual medley in the past two NCAA championships, Budner enters this year's meet as the nation's second-ranked swimmer in the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle races. She'll also swim the 200-yard freestyle, in which she's ranked 26th.

Golden and Zeller also qualified for the 1,650-yard freestyle, with their qualifying times placing them 27th and 28th in the field, respectively.

All four are looking forward to the opportunity to represent the school, but Budner's teammates are excited to be able to take part in what could be a special meet for the talented senior.

"I think Meredith is going to do really well," Golden said. "It's going to be a great experience for us to be there with her."

"Meredith is a special girl," coach Pat Mead said of the Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Colonial Athletic Association championships. "In pressure situations, head to head, Meredith is going to beat you. I cannot think of a time where she's been in that position and she's had somebody touch her out."

The arrival of Budner, Golden, Zeller, and their classmates signaled a new era in Towson swimming. The women's team won its first CAA title in their first season and have successfully defended it each year, most recently with February's 91.5-point win in the CAA championships.

Budner has continue to build the program's reputation at the NCAAs, earning the school a 25th-place tie with the University of Maryland by finishing sixth in the 1,650-yard freestyle and eighth in the 500-yard freestyle last year. Though Budner's teammates aren't ranked as high entering the meet, Mead says the girls will relish the opportunity to swim as underdogs.

"Cari Czarnecki can go and be the girl that we're talking about," Mead said. "She can place sixth. She's that talented. And Brooke Golden made Olympic Trials this year. She can go to this level of meet feeling no pressure, no expectations, and tear it up."

Golden echoed that sentiment.

"I'm not seeded very high in my events, but I'm happy to be there." Golden said. "Of course we always go in and want to do better than our seed times, but we want to have fun. A lot of us don't feel any pressure."

Czarnacki, who switched to the butterfly from the breast stroke this season, is entering the meet with similar expectations. She is seeded 18th in the 200-yard butterfly.

"It's just another chance to race and go out there and see what we can do," Czarnacki said. "It's a big meet, but I feel like there's less pressure."

Mead is hopeful that the team is able to improve on last year's final ranking and establish Towson as one of the nation's top programs.

"There's no way some of the other schools are thinking we're going to go down and do what we think we can do," he said. "I think the four that are going are in a position that they could score. If we do everything well, we could end up being a top-20 program, which would be phenomenal."

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