March 26, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Senior captain Alex Righi took fifth in the 50-yard freestyle event in a time of 19.04 at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships hosted by Texas A&M at the Student Recreation Center Natatorium in College Station, Texas on Thursday evening. In the preliminary round of competition, Righi tied the American record in the event by swimming to a time of 18.82. The fifth-place finish is the second highest of his career in the event, behind his second-place result in 2008. Righi has competed at the NCAA Championships in the event each of his four years as a Bulldog.
Righi started competition off strongly in the preliminary heats of the event. Righi swam the fastest race of his life to tie the American record, which he shared with Cal's Nathan Adrian. Righi's time of 18.82 in the preliminary heat placed him as the top seed going into the finals. Righi previously had a personal record of 18.90, which he set at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships on Mar. 5. Adrian set the American record on Mar. 5 at the Pac-10 Championships. With his exceptional performance, Righi earned the right to swim in lane four, next to the other top seeded swimmers in the event.
In the finals, it was clear that Righi was composed and ready to race. Each of the swimmers walked out to the pool in lane order, where they were introduced to the crowd by the announcer. During the introductions, Righi maintained his calm attitude, focusing on his pre-race preparation and not on waving or interacting with the crowd.
Righi burst off the blocks in the event and after the first 25 yards, was just behind the leaders, touching the wall in a time of 9.31 seconds. His split placed him as the sixth-fastest competitor at that point in the race. Righi, however, then went to work, closing fast to place fifth in a time of 19.04, only .02 in front of the sixth-place finisher. Had Righi gone as fast as he did in the preliminary round, he would have taken second place in the event for the second straight year. The event was won by Adrian in a new American record of 18.71, breaking the old record of 18.82 that he shared with Righi. While Righi will not leave the meet as the American record holder, he was the co-American record holder from the time of his preliminary race until the event finals Thursday evening. Adrian won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics as part of the United States' 4x100-meter relay team.
For Righi, his two fantastic swims in the 50-yard freestyle are only the start of the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships that will mark the close of an illustrious career. On Friday, Righi will compete in the 100-yard backstroke, an event that he took 11th in one year ago. Righi, however, is poised to do event better than that this year, as he is currently seeded seventh. His final event will take place on Saturday. Righi is currently seeded third, the same as he was in the 50-yard freestyle event, in the 100-yard freestyle. Righi took second in the 100-yard freestyle event last year.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity