ORLANDO, Fla. — In one of the most hallowed rites of spring, almost a million college students from around the country will descend upon Florida this month.
This is where the boys are.
And the girls.
And the parties.
It's spring break.
But for a group of men and women from Cal State Northridge, the trip to Central Florida and the Justus Aquatic Center this week is mostly business.
Coach Pete Accardy's men, expecting strong challenges from Cal State Bakersfield and Oakland (Mich.) Tech, hope to win their sixth straight NCAA Division II swimming championship, which would give them 10 in 12 years.
Accardy's women, while given only an outside chance of outscoring Clarion (Pa.) State and reclaiming the NCAA title they won in 1982, hope to finish in the top three for the fourth straight year.
By the time the four-day meet ends Saturday night, maybe they'll all be ready to join the party.
"A lot depends on how hungry we are," Accardy said. "I hope we're not so complacent to think that it's going to happen for us just because it usually does. We've had an amazing string, and hopefully it will continue."
Unusually difficult qualifying standards--Accardy calls them "almost unrealistic"--have cut the field almost in half from what it was a year ago. A total of 155 men and 167 women from 43 colleges are competing this week.
In several events less than 16 swimmers qualified, so some who qualified in other events will be added to fill out the field. Points are awarded to the top 16 finishers in each event.
Last year's field had more than 600 competitors.
"It's going to be a different kind of meet," Accardy said. "The numbers are really going to be significant. In the past, you could have a lot of people qualified, but if they came here and didn't swim well, it didn't matter. You still had to swim well to score points.
"In this meet, in several events, just by being here you're going to score."
The Bakersfield men, who outscored CSUN in the swimming events last year but had no divers, have 16 swimmers here this week, but again have no divers. Northridge has 11 swimmers and four divers, including Roland King and Blair Nogosek, who finished No. 1 and No. 2 in both diving events last year.
Bakersfield Coach Ernie Maglischo, who won three national titles at Cal State Chico in the 1970s and another at Oakland Tech in 1980, said it is a two-team race between his team and CSUN.
"The way I've doped it out," he said, "only about 20 points should separate us, with either one of us coming out on top."
In the past, CSUN has had the quality and the quantity to outscore almost everyone. The Matadors haven't finished lower than second since 1974.
This season, though, the shoe is on the other foot. Accardy is concerned about Bakersfield's depth.
"If we swim the way we usually do at the nationals," he said, "we have a definite chance to win. But if we slip a little bit, we could be third. We don't have the numbers.
"There's no margin for error this year."
And so, the parties can wait.
A team coached by Pete Accardy or Ernie Maglischo has won the past 13 Division II men's championships. . . . On the women's side, Accardy calls Clarion (Pa.) State a heavy favorite to win back the title it won in 1983 and 1984. Eight Clarion divers qualified for the nationals. "I would say that, realistically, we have a chance for second or third," Accardy said. Eight swimmers and two divers qualified for CSUN. . . . In last year's meet, also held at the Justus Aquatic Center, 21 Division II records were broken, including three by CSUN. . . . Jeff Kubiak, who scored 57 points in last year's meet and is the top individual scorer returning this year, established a national mark in the 200-yard breaststroke. . . . CSUN women set two records last year, including sophomore Crista Lawrence's mark in the 200-yard butterfly. . . . Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-80s all week, but the heat shouldn't affect the swimmers. The pool is indoors. NCAA rules require that an indoor pool be used for national championship meets.