In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star is featuring our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we have been showcasing our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.
By 1990, swimmers and divers from the UA had experienced national and international success in modest numbers.
American record-holder George DiCarlo won a gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Peter Evans was part of a gold medal relay team at the '84 Games. Doug Northway earned a bronze medal in the 1972 Munich Olympics, UA assistant coach Rick DeMont had established several world records in the early '70s, and Tim Shaw earned a silver medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Along came diver Michele Mitchell, who won silver medals in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. In 1981, Doug Towne won the school's first NCAA individual championship.
By 1990, the UA's top team finish in the NCAA finals, men or women, was sixth.
And then the dam burst. Once Cincinnati swimming coach Frank Busch was hired to coach the Wildcats in 1989, Arizona became a swimming factory.
It won two NCAA championships and had astonishing success by placing 14 teams, men's and women's, in the NCAA's top three. It's summer affiliate, Ford Aquatics, recently won its third national championship.
Since 1991, Arizona has had 63 swimmers who either won an individual NCAA championship or took part on a relay that did so.
The school has been represented by 14 Olympic gold medalists: DiCarlo, Evans, DeMont, Crissy Ahmann Perham, Trina Jackson, Beth Botsford, Amanda Beard, Patty Kempner, Amy Van Dyken, Lyndon Ferns, Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman, Darian Townsend and Ashley Tappin.
"In my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined the success we had there," said Busch, who is now the executive director of USA Swimming. "Our standards were set high and we kept setting them higher."
Nine Wildcats have set world records in individual or relay events.
In a four-year period, 2007-2010, UA national champions Whitney Myers, Lacey Nymeyer and Justine Schluntz were selected as NCAA Women of the Year. In 2009, UA diver Craig Sheedy was given the NCAA's top honor for a scholar-athlete, the Walter Byers Award.
As dozens of former Wildcats train toward the 2012 London Olympics, preparing for various trials in America and with international countries, Tucson has also become a training ground for notable post-college Olympic hopefuls, such as 2008 Beijing silver medalist Matt Grevers .
In total, Arizona has produced 41 Olympic swimmers and divers and seems likely to add to that total next year.
"It's amazing," said DiCarlo, who graduated from the UA 25 years ago. "Arizona has become a swimming school like few others."
Former Arizona swimmers have established 19 NCAA records and 25 American records. Chad Carvin, the 1997 USA Swimmer of the Year, set five of those NCAA/American records individually.