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Trojans excel on and off the field in 2012-13

The men's water polo team won its unprecedented fifth straight NCAA title in 2012.
Photo: The men's water polo team won its unprecedented fifth straight NCAA title in 2012.

USC athletics had another banner year in 2012-13 as it led the nation with three NCAA team titles and increased its collection of national team crowns to 120. In all, nine of USC’s 21 teams finished in the NCAA’s top 10. The university also produced 16 individual national champions and 52 All-Americans.

Trojans excelled in the classroom as well, with a pair of Academic All-American first-team honorees for the first time since 1996 and 30 conference All-Academic first-team selections. More than 80 percent of USC’s seniors graduated this spring, and the remainder are on track to get their degrees this fall. More USC student-athletes posted at least a 3.0 GPA this year than in any year but one since 2000.

Trojan success this past year began at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, where 40 current, former and future Trojans won 24 medals, including 12 golds (more than any university) to maintain USC’s streak of winning a gold medal in every Summer Games since 1912. Of those medalists, four returned to USC to compete this past year: Haley Anderson (silver in the marathon 10K swim), Anni Espar (silver in women’s water polo with Spain), Vladimir Morozov (bronze in swimming’s 400-meter freestyle relay for Russia) and Bryshon Nellum (silver in track’s 4X400-meter relay). Nellum carried the American flag in the closing ceremonies.

Nellum’s success continued into his final season of track for the Trojans, where he completed his comeback bid by winning the NCAA title in the 400 meters in a collegiate-best time of 44.73 seconds (he was the first USC champion in that event since 1998) and finishing third in the 200 meters.

Nellum was named the 2013 National Men’s Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. He also earned Pac-12 Male Track Athlete of the Year after becoming just the second conference male athlete to win Pac-12 titles in both the 200m and 400m. USC’s longtime track and field coach, Ron Allice, retired after guiding the men’s team to a fifth-place finish. Reggie Wyatt won the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAAs, the first Trojan to do so since 2000.

Jovan Vavic, head coach of both the men’s and women’s water polo teams, led the men’s squad to its unprecedented fifth straight NCAA title in the fall of 2012 and followed with USC’s first women’s water polo NCAA title since 2010 (beating Stanford in three sudden deaths). Vavic has now collected 12 national titles at USC, along with 12 National Coach of the Year honors. The 2012-13 season marked the third time that he matched a men’s national title with a women’s championship in the same academic year. Vavic saw both his teams combine for only one loss on the year (the men were 29-0 and the women were 27-1).

Nikola Vavic, Jovan’s son, earned National Player of the Year honors after the men’s run to the title, while women’s water polo players Flora Bolonyai, Espar and Monica Vavic all earned All-America first-team honors. Bolonyai also excelled in the classroom, joining men’s swimmer Alex Lendrum in earning Academic All-America first-team honors. Lendrum also received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

The women’s golf squad brought the third national championship of the year home to Troy, doing so in record-setting fashion. Head Coach Andrea Gaston’s team shattered the NCAA Championship record for most strokes under par as the Women of Troy cruised to a 21-stroke victory. All five Trojan players placed in the top 17, and first-semester freshman Annie Park won the NCAA individual crown with a score of 10 under 278 (70-67-70-71). The national title finished USC’s remarkable postseason run, which included victories at the Pac-12 Championship and the NCAA West Regional.

Trojans piled up postseason honors in addition to their national title, including Park, who earned the Honda Award for women’s golf (symbolic of the top athlete in the sport), National Freshman of the Year and National Player of the Year. Gaston brought home National Coach of the Year, Regional Coach of the Year and Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.

Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley rewrote the Pac-12 and USC football record books, setting 20 USC records, including Pac-12 marks for career total offense, passing yards, completions and touchdown passes. For his efforts in the community, in the classroom and on the field, Barkley was named the winner of the Wuerffel Trophy. Barkley’s success in the classroom also made him the first Trojan since 1999 to be named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete.

Marqise Lee had a stellar sophomore campaign, winning the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in the nation. He also won the Warfield Trophy, was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous All-American and All-Pac-12 first teamer. Among the 19 USC records he has set are Pac-12 standards for season receptions and receiving yards. Junior receiver Robert Woods also made his mark, setting a new USC career catches mark.

Besides Vavic and Gaston, USC’s other conference Coaches of the Year were Zenon Babraj in women’s rowing, Richard Gallien in women’s tennis and Honping Li in women’s diving. After the season, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke (women’s basketball), Andy Enfield (men’s basketball) and Caryl Smith Gilbert (men’s and women’s track and field) joined the roster of Trojan coaches.

USC’s 21st sport — women’s lacrosse — debuted this year. Composed mainly of freshmen and sophomores, the Women of Troy played well enough to advance to the conference tournament.

The women’s rowing team, which spent part of the season ranked No. 1 nationally, finished a program-best fourth at the NCAAs this year. The men’s swim team also was fourth at the NCAA meet (its best finish since 2001), with Morozov serving notice of being the sport’s next great sprinter as he won the NCAA 50-yard and 100-yard titles (the first Trojan to win those races since 1977 and 1974, respectively).

Anderson also won a pair of NCAA swim crowns in the 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyles, to push the women’s team to a seventh-place NCAA finish. Diver Haley Ishimatus, who won the platform event, also scored key points for USC. Women of Troy won national doubles titles in tennis (Sabrina Santamaria/Kaitlyn Christian) and sand volleyball (Kirby Burnham/Stevi Robinson). The men’s tennis team’s run of four consecutive NCAA team titles came to an end, but the Trojans did get to the quarterfinals.

Trojan student-athletes spent more than 3,000 hours doing community service in 2012-13, including involvement with the Community Bowl, Day in Troy and Swim With Mike.

In the midst of these accomplishments, USC’s athletic facilities continued to be upgraded. The John McKay Center was completed last August, and renovation has begun on Heritage Hall and the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

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