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CURRENT STORIES


Champion among champions

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Chris Hagedorn, arguably the state's most dominant swimmer for the past four years, has decided to join one of the nation's premier college programs.

Hagedorn announced Friday at Robert C. Byrd High School that he will attend Auburn University next fall to swim for coach David Marsh. The Tigers finished third at this season's NCAA meet and won the title in 1997 and 1999. In addition, Auburn claimed the men's SEC championship this season -- its seventh in the last eight seasons.

"I'm excited. I believe (Auburn) can do a lot with me and make me into a better swimmer as well as a better person," Hagedorn said. "It's a great program, and I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Hagedorn's mark on West Virginia prep swimming will no doubt be a lasting one. He was an eight-time state champion, with state records in the 50 and 100 free. His time of 20.58 in the 50 stands as a WVU pool record.

Last week, he recorded a 20.44 -- .03 off a national record -- at the Y-Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition to Auburn, Hagedorn narrowed his choices down to Big East power Pittsburgh and Tennessee.

"Chris has had success (at Robert C. Byrd) for four years, and I'm sure there will be nothing but more success for him," Robert C. Byrd coach Carol Straley said. "He's chosen a good athletic and academic school. I'm looking forward to seeing further success from him."

During the peak of his training, Hagedorn logs nearly 28 hours per week in the pool.

"When I went (to Auburn) on my recruiting trip, they spoke about their training program, and it stood out from all of the other schools," Hagedorn said. "That was the biggest difference."

Auburn has produced three Olympic gold medalists, most noticeably Ambrose "Rowdy" Gaines, who won three golds at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

The school is most noted for its dominating sprint relay teams, which Hagedorn said he hopes to be a part of next year.

"Each year he has continually gotten better and better," said Tom Plemons, who has worked extensively with Hagedorn for nearly eight years.

"Chris has so much natural ability, but up until he was 12 years old, he just swam in the summer. I knew he was going to be a great swimmer if he put his mind to it. After his freshman year, I think he began to take it a little more serious."

Hagedorn, who will major in engineering, said he plans on receiving a training program from the school to work with this summer.

"It'll be tough, but I think I can pull through," Hagedorn said. "It's going to be a long way from home, but I'm excited to be getting this chance."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com