National Championship moments: 1988 Women's Swimming and Diving
The 1988 season appeared to be the proverbial "rebuilding year" for the Horns' women's swimming and diving team with the loss of seven seniors who had won four consecutive national championships. Gone were Jodi Eyles, Lindsey Hansen-Sturm, Kara McGrath, Terrianne McGuirk, Patti Sabo, Tori Trees and Jennifer Wagner. Gone were six All-Americans, three individual Southwest Conference champions, four members of SWC championship relay teams, one Olympian and one American record holder.
The starter's gun at the UT Orange-White Intrasquad Meet sent the Horns on what would become their second straight undefeated dual meet season (9-0). During the season, Texas swam against four teams that would finish in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships. Three of those teams would finish second, third and fourth to Texas. The season was marked by such victories as 489-315 over USC, 450-422 over UCLA, 90-50 (short-course) over Stanford, 166-102 (short-course) over California and 75-29 (short-course) over eventual national runner-up Florida.
Inspired by their impressive showing in the dual meets, the Horns qualified 17 swimmers for the NCAA Championships. Texas led from day one of the Championships in front of a home crowd that never saw them relinquish the lead. The spread was 37 points at the end of the first day (Texas 211.5, Florida 174.5). The overall lead belonged to the Horns, but the individual spotlight rested on Texas freshman Leigh Ann Fetter. Fetter tied with Dara Torres of Florida and set a new pool record in the 50 freestyle (22.38). This, however, was merely a preview of things to come.
On day two, Texas increased its lead over Florida to 93 points (Texas 474, Florida 381). Several more records fell on the day - the Texas 200 freestyle relay team of Courtney Madsen, Colleen Griffin, Carrie Steinseifer and Fetter set pool, NCAA, U.S. Open and American records in a time of 1:30.21. Tracey McFarlane set pool, NCAA and U.S. Open records with her 1:00.51 clocking in the 100 breaststroke. Had McFarlane been granted U.S. citizenship one month earlier, her time would have been an American Record as well. All-American Betsy Mitchell set a pool record in the 100 backstroke (54.11), besting her record of 54.33 that she set in the preliminaries.
On the third day, Texas increased its lead to an insurmountable 118.5 points (Texas 661, Florida 542.5). One more pool record dropped on that day - Mitchell's time of 1:57.21 in the 200 backstroke, on her final swim as a Longhorn, was the best that the Texas Swimming Center had ever seen.
Consistency, as opposed to individual national titles, was the key to the Horns' victory at the 1988 NCAA Championships. Texas only won five individual championships out of 21 events, but consistently placed one, two, or sometimes three people in the finals of every event.
In the end, the "rebuilding year" turned into a "banner year" with Texas hanging up its fifth consecutive national championship banner from the catwalk at the Texas Swimming Center.