There was a time, not so many years ago, when a fourth-place finish by the Cal State Northridge men’s swimming and diving team would have sent Coach Pete Accardy belly-flopping off the high dive in despair.
Not anymore. After the opening day of the NCAA Division II nationals Wednesday at State University of New York at Buffalo, the Matador men were quite content to take a place behind Cal State Bakersfield, Oakland (Mich.) and UC Davis in the team standings.
Northridge may not hold its perch, but it appears that the once-mighty Matadors won’t sink as far as Accardy had feared.
A top 10 finish--something CSUN has accomplished in each of Accardy’s 19 seasons as coach--seems fairly secure.
Northridge and Chico State have 35 points. Missouri-St. Louis is 10th, 24 points behind the Matadors. Bakersfield, which is in search of its fourth consecutive championship, leads with 131 points. Oakland has 93 and UC Davis 36.
“We’re hanging in there,” Accardy said. “All things considered, I’ll be happy if we’re in the top 10.”
Still, it will be small consolation compared to what might have been.
Northridge, which won nine titles from 1975-85, had slipped behind both Bakersfield and Oakland in the past three national meets. But based on this season’s early results, Accardy said privately that a return to the top was possible if certain things fell into place.
Instead, things fell apart. First went the personnel--one swimmer was kicked off the squad and nine others were ruled academically ineligible. Then the pool itself was plagued with maintenance problems.
The team had been able to overcome such obstacles in previous seasons, but not this time.
“We’ve done the impossible for so long that at some point it has to catch up with us,” said Accardy, who had never had more than one scholarship to split among his team members.
“We’ve been awful successful for a long time and really the support in the whole community hasn’t been fitting to what our team has done,” Accardy said. “We win championship after championship and basically our program stays status quo. We have the same problems--like the pool, for instance--year after year.”
Northridge’s top performance Wednesday came from Tim Arnold, who was fourth in the 500-yard freestyle. Arnold’s time of 4:33.05 was a lifetime best, but the senior said that he will leave the meet a bit disappointed.
“The way the meet is going right now, the team we started the year with would definitely have had a shot of winning,” Arnold said. “I swam my best, but I’d rather we win a national title than anything else.”
While Arnold closed his collegiate career on an up note, freshman John Kunishima made a successful debut.
Kunishima was fifth in the 200-yard individual medley with a personal best of 1:52.34.
If only he could have called it a race halfway through. Kunishima led after the butterfly and backstroke portions of the race but faltered in the breaststroke.
“I was right where I wanted to be,” Kunishima said. “The last 50 (yards) I just broke down a little. The last turn killed me. I usually have a great freestyle, but that was not the case.”
Bakersfield freshman Kristian Bruggert led a Roadrunner sweep of the top three places in the medley. His time of 1:50.81 was only a half-second shy of the Division II record set last year by Oakland’s Mark Vandermey.