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OSU swimmer brings home a title

by: ©2008 DENNIS WOLVERTON, Oregon State junior Saori Haruguchi won the 200-yard butterfly at the NCAA nationals in Columbus, Ohio, last week.

Having an NCAA swimming champion at Oregon State would seem as likely as an Olympic title for the Jamaican bobsled team (or maybe a national championship baseball squad at OSU).

But that's exactly what junior Saori Haruguchi achieved last weekend at Columbus, Ohio, winning the 200-yard butterfly in a meet-record 1 minute, 52.39 seconds.

The Onojo, Japan, native becomes the first woman in the 33-year history of the OSU program to claim a national collegiate title. German Olympian Birte Stevens came close, finishing second in the 200 breaststroke for the Beavers in 2004.

'I'm very proud,' says Haruguchi, who also placed fifth in the 400 individual medley and eighth in the 200 IM at the NCAA meet. 'When I touched the wall and saw my time and place, all I thought of was to smile and be grateful for the help of so many people.'

Foremost on her 'help' list is Larry Liebowitz, the fifth-year OSU coach who used connections from his time as an assistant at Southern Cal to recruit Haruguchi.

The leap from Japan to Corvallis was big for Haruguchi, 'but I love to do some crazy stuff,' she says with a laugh.

Haruguchi placed sixth as a freshman in 1:57.9 and sixth as a sophomore in 1:56.05. After watching her butterfly parts in the two IM events - which took place before the 200 butterfly final - 'I expected her to win,' Liebowitz says. 'Her fly looked so fluid, so relaxed, so easy … as the meet progressed, I could see her confidence level rising.'

Haruguchi has focused on the butterfly since age 13.

'I was really short and small, so I pretty much had no choice,' the 5-6 Haruguchi says. 'I couldn't do freestyle or backstroke. Butterfly is all about technique, and I really had to work at it.'

Liebowitz - who coached Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin at SC - calls Haruguchi 'the fastest trainer I've ever coached.'

'She does (training) sets I've only seen male college swimmers do,' he says. 'She can do three sets of 50 butterfly in 30 seconds apiece.'

Haruguchi leaves Corvallis on April 10 for Japan, where she will attempt to gain one of two spots in the 200 butterfly on Japan's Olympic team.

'I think she'll make the final,' Liebowitz says. 'Then it's just how well she can race on that day.'

• Last week, Brennan Carvalho quietly picked up the most prestigious individual award in the 61 years of Portland State football.

Carvalho is the recipient of the Rimington Award as the top center in Division I-AA football.

'If we had five like him, our offensive line would be pretty darn good,' PSU offensive coordinator Mouse Davis says.

A four-year starter and first-team All-American, Carvalho has been in Scottsdale, Ariz., the past two months working in the Ikei Performance program to prepare for a shot at the NFL. During the Vikings' pro day, the native Hawaiian ran a 4.9 40 and bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times.

'I actually did it 28 times, but they only counted 25,' says the 6-1 Carvalho, who has dropped 15 pounds to get down to 295.

Carvalho's height is the biggest negative toward making an NFL roster.

'He's a short 6-1, so he'll have to fight that,' Davis says, 'but he's a tough kid who is athletic enough that he can stuff a basketball. It'll be a matter of finding the right team.'

'I know (my height) is a disadvantage, but I don't really worry about it,' Carvalho says. 'If I get into a (training) camp, I know I'll impress some people.'

• Maybe KXL's (750 AM) sports programming won't wind up on the FM dial at sister station Jammin 95.5, but signs point in that direction.

Earlier this month, KXL sports director Jay Allen registered the domain name 955thegame.com, reserving the Web address for a potential new sports radio station.

• Add Ben Braun - fired Wednesday by California - to the list of candidates Oregon State likely will interview for its vacant basketball coaching job.

Ingeborg Druffel died Saturday night at her Northeast Portland home, with the television set beaming her beloved Trail Blazers in a victory over the L.A. Clippers.

Druffel, 81, had been bedridden due to cancer, and Blazer broadcasts were a chief form of entertainment in her final few months of life. In February, Portland guard Sergio Rodriguez learned of the longtime fan's situation and drove to her home for a 15-minute visit that her nurse practitioner, Dolores Foglio, calls 'the highlight of the year for her.'

After the visit, a framed photo of Druffel and Rodriguez, along with an article about their meeting, sat bedside.

'During the game, I whispered in her ear, 'The Blazers are 10 points ahead, and your boy (Rodriguez) is in the game,' ' Foglio says. 'It was perfect.'

Druffel died before the end of the game, with her husband of 62 years, Gordon, at her side.

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