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With win in first Territorial Cup, Bowman launches Sun Devil swimming into new stratosphere

Less than a year into the Bob Bowman era, the Sun Devils are already making strides in the pool.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of things we haven't seen since 2002. Frosted tips, AOL instant messaging, and jeans with flames on the back.

But one thing the Sun Devil men's swimming team hasn't accomplished since 2002 is a victory over arch-rival Arizona. For over a decade, the Wildcats dominated ASU in the pool.

At least they did until Bob Bowman showed up.

In the six months since Bowman arrived in Tempe, bringing his wealth of success at both the collegiate and Olympic level, he's changed the culture of the swim program at Arizona State. His previous successes created expectation for success at ASU.

On Saturday that expectation turned into reality as the men's squad knocked off the Wildcats for the first time in over a decade, winning 168-132 over the No. 17 Wildcats. Arizona State saw five of its school records broken Saturday, an impressive feat for a regular-season dual meet, while packing the stands so full that people watched from the parking garages adjacent to Mona Plummer Stadium.

"It was amazing," said Bowman. "Rivalries are what make college fun, college athletics in general. To be part of one that is so intense as this one is really fun. To come away with the win for the men was really special because it's been a long time."

ASU's men won 11 of the 14 swimming events on the day, led by standout performances from Barkley Perry and Richard Bohus. Bohus and ASU's 200 yard medley relay team got the party started with a first place finish, and Perry followed that up with a with a nail-biting win in the 200 yard freestyle.

Bohus, a few months removed from breaking both of his arms as well as recovering from a broken shoulder, showed no signs of wear and tear Saturday, crushing the field in the 100 backstroke.

Bohus broke a school record with his time, and followed it up by barely squeaking out a victory in the 50 free, beating out Arizona's Renny Richmond by .02 seconds. Bohus ended his stellar day with a victory in the 200 medley relay, totaling four wins on a day not too far removed from career-threatening injuries.

Richard Bohus celebrates after winning the 50 freestyle. (Photo by Blake Benard)

"He's our little glass boy. But he just perseveres," junior Brandon Mills said.

Halfway through the meet a twenty minute intermission was taken and an Olympic exhibition took place, with Michael Phelps and Allison Schmidt swimming among others.

Phelps, who's on track to become an assistant under his coach Bowman once the Rio Olympics are over, had nothing but good things to say about the shift in culture that Bowman's helped bring to the program.

"For me to watch the guys and see them accept the challenge Bob's given them, I think it's great," Phelps said. "It's fun watching them step up to a challenge, and you're seeing it in how they're swimming. It's something I'm looking forward to next year being on the deck with Bob and being able to help the athletes."

Michael Phelps dons an ASU swimming cap while competing in an exibition race at Mona Plummer Stadium. (Photo by Blake Benard)

But the greatest Olympian of all time isn't able to officially be a coach yet, so the thanks for the program's immediate improvement goes to Bowman, an improvement that's tangible to the swimmers that precede Bowman's time in Tempe.

"I think it's surreal," Mills said. "Seeing progress in the team and the way we're recruiting right now is incredible. Doing this - beating U of A - is probably the proudest we've been in a long time. Having Bob as a coach, he definitely inspires everybody. Every day there's an inspirational quote, you try to think about that in practice and when you come to the meet you've already done the preparation."

The Sun Devils have a few weeks separating them from the Pac-12 Championships and NCAA's, competitions that in previous years ASU wouldn't enter with much confidence. But when you've got a coach like Bowman who's combined success at the highest level with ability to connect with collegiate athletes, the sky is the limit for ASU.

"There are two types of coaches really, coaches that make you swim and coaches that you want to swim for," Mills said. "He's one of the coaches you want to swim for."