Fifty-seven years ago today — March 31, 1962 — Illini swimmer Jim Spreitzer won the NCAA men's 220-yard freestyle championship, the last of seven NCAA titles captured by University of Illinois swimmers.
Swimming from lane three, the St. George, Illinois native and Evanston High School grad covered the distance in a time of 2:00.9, just three-tenths of a second slower than the NCAA mark set by Murray Rose of Southern Cal a year earlier. Spreitzer edged out Dennis Rounsavelle of USC and Mike Wood of Michigan State for the championship.
Spreitzer, who placed sixth in that same race in 1961 and also no better than sixth in the Big Ten meet a month earlier, broke his personal record by eight-tenths of a second. A day later, the Illini junior placed third in the 100-yard sprint with a time of 49.5 seconds.
The NCAA meet, held at Ohio State University's Natatorium in Columbus, saw the Illini finish in 10th place as a team and fifth among Big Ten schools.
As a senior in 1963, Spreitzer missed his third and final season at Illinois due to a rib fracture he suffered in a tobogganing accident. He ended his Illini career as the school record holder in the 100 and 200 freestyle, and in the 440-yard medley relay. He was selected as UI's most valuable swimmer in 1962.
Spreitzer, now 77 years old, lives in Lebanon, Mo., with his wife, Mary.
Illini men's swimming NCAA champions
Year Name Event
1926 William O'Brien 1-meter diving
1934 Charles Flachmann 50 freestyle
1935 Charles Flachmann 50 freestyle
1935 Charles Flachmann 100 freestyle
1953 Robert Clemons 100 butterfly
1958 Joe Hunsaker 200 IM
1962 Jim Spreitzer 220 freestyle
Today: Allison Curtin, basketball
Monday: Marc Mondesir, football (20)
Tuesday: Travis Piotrowski, wrestling (21)
Wednesday: Ella Masar, soccer
Thursday: Kendra Pasquale, soccer (19)
Friday: Morris Virgil, football (35)
Saturday: Aleks Vukic, tennis (23)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is www.SportsLLL.com.