It’s a new era in Alabama swimming, with former British Swimming head coach Dennis Pursley at the helm of the Crimson Tide. Today in Auburn, though, he got a stark reminder of how good SEC swimming is, as in-state rivals Auburn Tigers thumped the Crimson Tide by scores of 182-61 (women) and 175-68 (men), respectively.
On the women’s side, Auburn’s revamped backstroke group was already showing off. First, in the 200 medley relay, junior transfer Aubrey Peacock and freshman Caitlyn Forman both split right around a 26.0 as the Tigers went 1-2 in 1:41.05 and 1:41.75, respectively.
Later, in the 200 backstroke (no 100 was swum), another freshman Jillian Vitarius took her first career win with a 1:57.16. That’s already the 2nd-fastest time in the country this season, behind only Olympian Elizabeth Beisel of Florida. Between those two and a pair of other Florida freshmen, Ashlee Linn and Sinead Russell, this 200 back should be one of the better races at this year’s SEC Championships.
Micah Lawrence also made her re-emergence on the college scene after a one-year hiatus to train for the Olympics, and she swam a 2:13.78 in the 200 breaststroke to run away with the victory by over three seconds. The last time we saw her begin a college season, in October of 2010, she was only going 2:16′s to kick things off. The Olympic finalist is already well ahead of that pace this season.
Senior Katie Gardocki also had a good early season swim in the 500, with a 4:50.94.
Alabama’s lone swimming win came in the 200 fly, where Kristel Vourna (2:02.74) overcame Auburn freshman Alex Merritt (2:02.93) on the final strokes of the race. The Alabama women’s divers, including sophomore Lisa Bogostian who won the 1-meter springboard competition.
For the men, it was all about the Auburn sprinters already early this season, and specifically junior Marcelo Chierighini. He swept the 50 free (20.24), the 100 free (44.44), and backed that 100 up later in the meet with a 44.41 free relay leadoff.
His cohort James Disney-May had a great meet as well, placing 2nd in the 100 in 45.12 and splitting a 44.6 on the 2nd leg of the 400 free relay. Chierighini is only the 4th swimmer under 45 seconds already this season. Auburn still has a little bit of a depth issue, though very early, in the sprints. they failed to break three minutes in the race, something that their conference rivals Florida, with much less sprinting credentials, have already accomplished.