Michael Gilliam won the national championship in the 100 backstroke and the

University of Tennessee finished seventh at the 1999 NCAA Swimming and

Diving Championhips over the weekend in Indianapolis, Ind.

Auburn won the team title with 467.5 points and Stanford took second with

421.5 points. Tennessee finished with 171 points, the second-best finish by

an SEC school.

"It was a heartstopping finish," said Vol head coach John Trembley. "We

were locked in a battle with Michigan for seventh. We needed to place

fourth in the (consolation finals of the) 400 freestyle relay and we placed

fourth. Michael Gilliam and Brent Owen swam outstanding relay legs."

The squad of Chris Johnson, Ross Powells, Gilliam and Owen turned in a

12th-place time of 2:56.39 to secure seventh place.

On Thursday, Gilliam led the 100 backstroke race from start to finish in

what looked to be a David vs. Goliath event. Gilliam, standing 5-foot-10,

was dwarfed by the other competitors as he stood at the starting blocks and

again as he climbed atop the medal stand. The seven other competitors

ranged from 6-foot-7 to 6-foot-2.

Undaunted by the size of the competition, the sophomore from Nashville led

by almost half a second at the turn and finished in a career-best time of

47.12 seconds. The win gave Gilliam his third All-America award of the meet

and sixth of his career. Gilliam finished sixth in the event last season

and won the SEC 100 backstroke championship last month.

"The race just did it for itself," Gilliam said. "I've been working for

this since August and I just put on the autopilot."

In winning the national championship Gilliam added another chapter to the

Gilliam legacy at Tennessee. Last month, he joined his father Steve and

brother Craig as SEC 100 backstroke champions. Michael's uncles Marc and

Keith were also SEC individual champions.

"Michael has worked hard all season and matured tremendously as a

technician and a racer," Trembley said. "He put together a great race and

surprised the entire field. It is a great national title for a great family

and a great young man."

The 200 medley relay squad also produced a top-eight finish on Thursday.

Gilliam, Jeremy McDonnell, Adam Engle and Lance Asti reached the wall in a

time of 1:27.95 to finish fifth.

In three-meter diving, Gabi Chereches finished sixth with a score of 591.85

to win his third career All-America honor. Chereches won his fourth the

next day with a fifth-place showing on the platform, scoring 796.70


Other notable results for Tennessee included a seventh-place finish in the

400 medley relay and Zane DeWitz's fourth-place finish in the 200

individual medley. The sophomore reached the wall in a career-best time of

1:47.16 to earn All-America honors.

Tennessee's seventh-place overall finish marks the seventh consecutive

season that the Vols have finished in the top 10. Trembley has now finished

among the top 10 in 10 of his 11 seasons at the helm. It is also the first

season since 1994, when UT finished ninth, that the Vols have finished

outside the nation's top six.

"This is a new generation of Tennessee swimmers," Trembley said. "We are

very young and now a little more experienced. We finished seventh, so there

are six to go."

Tennessee garnered 11 All-America awards on the weekend and 14 honorable

mentions. Gilliam led the Vols with three All-Americas.