What should have been a day of triumph and jubilation in Athens was a day instead left with a pall of uncertainty for the Bulldog faithful.
Georgia’s sweep will officially go on the books as the 500th and 501st of Bauerle’s career (according to Georgia, that ranks him 6th all-time), but there were no balloons falling from the rafters. Instead, this plateau, that the Bulldogs have eyed all season long, was left as an afterthought in Georgia’s press release (which can be read in its entirety here). That is because he was held out of the meet while the Athletics Department does an “academic review” of his star swimmer Chase Kalisz.
The women’s team won 186-113, which will go down as the official number 500 as that meet ended first, and the men followed close behind with a very tight 156-142 win over a North Carolina State men’s squad that is the best since the late 70’s.
The Georgia women started the meet off with a closer-than-expected battle in the women’s 200 medley relay. Olivia Smoliga (25.46), Melanie Margalis (28.20), Lauren Harrington (24.71), and Chantal van Landeghem (23.09) combined for a 1:41.46, which beat North Carolina State’s 1:42.05. Grogg’s 25.53 lead-off was competitive with the split that the freshman Smoliga, a probable All-American, used to lead off Georgia’s relay.
After that, the Bulldogs were led by three very good individual swims from junior Amber McDermott. Two came in traditional events for her: she won the 1000 free in 9:58.68 and the 400 IM in 4:21.47; the third win came in the 200 backstroke (2:01.13) that she’s always experimented with a few times a year, and a race that she could probably be an All-American in if she weren’t so good at the distance freestyles and the 400 IM.
That swim by McDermott in the 200 backstroke is quite a bit faster than she was last year or this year, but she needed to be faster to hold off North Carolina State’s Alexia Zevnik, who was 2nd in 2:01.34 and led going into the final 50.
The Wolfpack got a big performance in the 50 free from Lauren Poli, where she won over Smoliga 23.28-23.30. That was part of a sprint sweep for the Wolfpack. Poli finished only 8th (last) in the 100 free in 53.04, but her freshman teammate Natalie Labonge won in 51.49. That beat Georgia’s Chantal van Landeghem who was 2nd in 51.68, and Smoliga who was 3rd in 51.75.
Georgia’s Brittany MacLean won the 200 free in 1:49.81, making her the only swimmer under 1:52 in this race (Georgia didn’t use Jordan Mattern in the 200 free). In the 500, it was a Georgia 1-2-3 as freshman Rachel Zilinskas won in 4:50.80, followed by MacLean in 4:51.41 and Shannon Vreeland in 4:56.26.
Grogg won a Smoliga-less 100 back in 55.38, and Georgia’s Annie Zhu swept the Margalis-less breaststrokes in 1:03.23 and 2:16.33.
Margalis, meanwhile, won the 100 fly in 55.39.
North Carolina State won the 400 free relay at the close of the meet, swimming a 3:24.49 including a 50.63 anchor from Hannah Freyman. The Wolfpack won that relay without Riki Bonnema, who has been absent from more-than-one NC State meet this season. Georgia, the defending NCAA Champions in this event, took 2nd in 3:25.27. They got a 49.63 anchor from Margalis, though they also didn’t use two of their best on the relay, Smoliga or van Landeghem.
The battle between the Georgia men, who were without their top performer Chase Kalisz, and the North Carolina State men was a much more competitive affair.
The Wolfpack opened up by winning the 200 medley relay in 1:28.46 to Georgia’s 1:29.44. While this relay is not Georgia’s best relay, the impressive result was Ian Bishop splitting 24.97 on the breaststroke leg for NC State, besting Georgia’s Nic Fink and his 25.16 split.
Georgia’s fantastic distance group then earned those points back and then some in the meet’s next race, the 1000 free. NC State is not strong in the distance races, and Georgia is, resulting in maximum points (16-3) for the Bulldogs. That was led by a 9:15.64 from Garrett Powell, followed by Will Freeman (9:22.08) and Andrew Gemmell (9:23.85).
The scoring see-sawed back the other way in the 200 free, where Jonathan Boffa won in 1:38.59, winning a big battle with Georgia’s Matias Koski (1:38.67). North Carolina State’s David Williams and Barrett Miesfeld tied for 3rd in 1:40.23.
It was Georgia’s Taylor Dale, then, who won another very close event in the men’s 100 back, with a 48.80 to Andreas Schiellerup’s 48.83 for 2nd-place from NC State. That left the Wolfpack with a 1-point lead a quarter of the way through the day’s events.
Nic Fink won the men’s 100 breaststroke in 55.71 after Ian Bishop DQ’ed for a one-handed touch. In real-time, the two touched the wall in identical marks, but the DQ cost Bishop big points for his team.
Ty Stewart gave Georgia three-straight wins, with the latest coming in the men’s 200 backstroke in 1:47.31, with NC State’s Christian McCurdy taking 2nd in 1:48.63. In this race, like many in the early part of the meet, a good battle for 1st place gave way to a pretty significant drop-off at 3rd.
In the men’s 50 free, Simonas Bilis, who is coming off of a spectacular Lithuanian National Championship meet, won in 20.35, topping Georgia’s Michael Trice in 20.78. That kept the Wolfpack in this battle, though they still trailed.
In the next event, the men’s 3-meter diving that was rolled off of the separate Georgia Diving Invitational, the Bulldogs were able to extend their lead. They went 1-3-4, led by Spencer Madanay, and NC State only had one diver Grant Saale on the trip, meaning a big advantage for Georgia.
But NC State, a program that right now is far superior to Georgia in the sprint freestyles, went 1-2 in the 100 free led by Boffa (44.37) and Bilis (44.95). Trice took 3rd in 45.45.
In a seemingly never-ending back-and-forth swing, NC State took another win in the men’s 200 back, with Stephen Coetzer winning in 1:48.73. Georgia took the 2-3-4 spots, led by Jared Markham in 1:49.24 and Dale in 1:49.32. Those two were dead-even with Coetzer into the last 50, and though the NC State junior got the win, the team couldn’t capitalize on a chance to pull things even.
Nic Fink got Georgia back into the win column with a 2:02.12 in the 200 breaststroke for a breaststroke sweep on the day, and Ty Stewart was 2nd in 2:02.42. Bishop took 3rd in 2:04.12, but with the 500 free coming up, this meet was slipping away. The Bulldogs again went 1-2-3 in that 500, led by a 4:29.75 from Koski.
NC State kept in contact with a Barrett Miesfeld runaway win in the 100 fly, going a 47.55, which is a very good time for him for this point of the season.
Grant Saale won the 1-meter by 24 points, but because they only had one diver, Georgia matched them at 9 points for the event.
Stewart added a 2nd win in the men’s 400 IM with a 3:55.59, meaning that the closing 400 free relay was good for nothing more than an event win.
NC State kept the score respectable by going 1-3 in that closing event, led by a 2:58.23 from their A-Relay. Boffa split a 43.5 on that relay, and the other three guys were all better than 45 seconds.
In Georgia’s A-relay, meanwhile, nobody was under 45 seconds, though Fink was a solid 45.20 on the lead-off leg.
Georgia has a pair of tall challenges coming up next weekend, as they roll through Texas for a Friday dual with Texas A&M and a Saturday match-up with the Texas Longhorns. Meanwhile, NC State races next Friday against Villanova.