Some of the best swimmers in the world are heading to the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center for the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, hosted by Seattle University and the Seattle Sports Commission Thursday through Saturday, March 22-24.
The NCAA has selected 270 swimmers and divers from 47 different Division I schools to participate in the 89th annual national collegiate championships. This is the fourth time the meet has been held in Washington, with Ohio State winning in 1947, Michigan in 1961, and Arizona at this facility four years ago in 2008.
California is the defending NCAA Division I champion, earning the title in last year's championships held in Minneapolis, Minn. The Bears had 18 swimmers selected to this year's championships, the most of any school. Arizona saw 17 swimmers selected, but the Wildcats will also send two divers for an expected meet-high total of 19 student-athletes at the meet.
There are some local connections at this year's championships. Peter Benner of Georgia swam at the King County Aquatic Center from ages 2 to 11 and is the son of legendary coach Rick Benner, a 2010 inductee into the Pacific Northwest Swimming Hall of Fame. UNLV junior Cody Roberts from Richland, Wash., was set to attend Washington until the Huskies dropped the swimming program in 2009. Kevin Munsch is a native of Kent, Wash., who will represent Arizona in the 200 breaststroke.
With this being an Olympic year, an effort has been made to involve as many former Olympians as possible in the meet. 10-time Olympic medalist Gary Hall Jr. will hold an autograph session Thursday night from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., and then he will present the awards to the top swimmers in the 50 freestyle. Other former Olympians expected to hand out awards during the weekend include Rick Colella, Mel Stewart, Megan Jendrick, Aaron Piersol, Nathan Adrian, and Brendan Hansen.
All-session tickets are currently on sale through Ticketmaster and cost $80 for premium chairback seats, $70 for other premium tickets, and $40 for general admission. Single-session tickets, also on sale now online through Ticketmaster, will be available at the King County Aquatic Center Box Office starting Thursday, March 22, with preliminary sessions costing $15 (chairbacks), $10 (premium), or $5 (general admission), and final sessions going for $25 (chairbacks), $20 (premium), or $10 (general admission).
Both sessions Thursday and the preliminary sessions on Friday and Saturday will be streamed for free on GoSeattleU.com. The finals sessions on Friday and Saturday will be streamed live on ESPN3.com and will be broadcast on ESPNU at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 1.