Seven major conference championships kicked off this week, with the SEC Men and Women, Big Ten Women, ACC Women, and the Big East men and women all beginning their first swimming (and in some cases diving) action tonight. Because most of these conferences were limited to only two events, the 200 medley relay and 800 free relay, we’ll recap them all in the same post.
The Florida men look incredibly strong after the first night of competition. They took wins in both relays in two nationally-best times. The quartet of Marco Loughran, Conor Dwyer, Marcin Cieslak, and Brett Fraser touched in a 1:24.94. Auburn was half-a-second back in 1:25.52, though they are expected to be better in the 400 medley. Tennessee was third in 1:26.0.
The Florida men repeated in the 800 free relay, including an unbelievable 1:31.73 lead-off leg from Dwyer: just .01 off of Texas alum Dave Walters’ American record. This was already half-a-second faster than his NCAA-winning time in this event from last season, and not only put the nation on notice, he put the world on notice. Dwyer is no longer just chasing collegiate championships, but with the way he is swimming is starting to make himself a very strong candidate for the 2012 London Olympic team.
The biggest disappointment was Georgia, who was 5th and 4th, respectively, and is currently second-to-last in the overall standings.
Though only one diving event has been accounted for in the official score, but knowing what we know, here’s how the teams stand. Despite winning two relays, Florida barely made a dent in Auburn’s lead.
- Auburn 207
- Tennessee 199.5
- Florida 129
- LSU 99.5
- Alabama 93
- Kentucky 92
- Georgia 73
- South Carolina 50
The Auburn women won the 200 medley with a mark of 1:36.1. The race was incredibly tight until Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace hit the water on the anchor, and by the time she touched 21.04 seconds later the Tigers were well-clear of second place LSU, who finished in 1:36.9. The Tennessee women entered this meet with the second fastest time in the nation in this event, but couldn’t match that mark and settled for third in 1:37.09. Auburn is now ranked second in the country in this race behind Arizona.
Besides Vanderpool-Wallace, the other all-world sprinter in this meet, Jane Trepp, had a split of 26.57 in the 50 breaststroke. This makes her a serious NCAA contender in the 100 breaststroke; for comparison, only Annie Chandler, who was the 100 breaststroke NCAA Champion, went a 26-split at NCAA’s last year.
For the Florida Gators, who are holding out hope for a chance at an SEC Championship, their fourth place touch was not much of a setback. The Gators’ strength comes in the middle-distance stroke events, rather than the sprints, so they’ll be better in the 400 medley. Georgia was all the way back in 5th, but managed to do so without using any of their “big guns,” whom they can then swim in the other 4 relays.
The 800 free relay saw the real fireworks from the Georgia Bulldogs, who broke the American record that most have been anticipating all season long. Their final time was 6:53.58, and they were nearly half-a-pool length clear of their next closest competitors, Florida, at 6:59.10. Tennessee again was third, and Auburn held serve in fourth in their weakest relay event.
The Bulldogs got their fastest split from their leadoff, Morgan Scroggy, in 1:42.60. That time would’ve been fast enough to win NCAA’s last year in the individual for Scroggy, though with the middle-distance group the Bulldogs have assembled, the bar is definitely raised this year. Their next target at NCAA’s is the U.S. Open, and NCAA, record of 6:52.69 set by Cal in tech suits in 2009. Allison Schmitt, as expected, didn’t appear to be rested much, and faded on her last 50, but still split an impressive 1:43.2.
For Florida, Shara Stafford looked to be healthy and in great shape, after a serious health scare, with a lead-off of 1:44.68. It will be interesting to see how her conditioning holds up as the meet wears on, and whether her health issues are leading to a taper earlier than Coach Troy wanted.
Here’s the scoring, including diving, after night one.
- Auburn 166
- Florida 153
- South Carolina 108
- Georgia 106
- Tennessee 96
- LSU 93.5
- Kentucky 83
- Arkansas 76
- Alabama 73.5
- Vanderbilt 32
The North Carolina women got off to the hottest start on day 1, with a win in the 200 medley relay in 1:37.89. They had four solid legs, though nothing spectacular besides Layne Brodie’s 27.39 in the breaststroke leg. Rebecca Kane was also very strong on the freestyle leg in 21.66. A surprising Maryland team, who has a lot of great pure-speed on their team, finished second in 1:38.57. Another shock was third, with Miami swimming a 1:38.88 thanks to awesome back-half splits by Annika Saarnak (23.43 fly) and Kelsi Hall (21.70).
Virginia punted on this relay, and finished 5th. They will make a strong comeback with their A-squad in the other four relays with the intention of winning them all.
That winning began not long after with a solid 7:03.00 that stands as an ACC Conference record. Lauren Perdue, who entered the meet with the fastest 200 free time in the nation, anchored them with a 1:33.22 that was comparable to what the hauntingly good Georgia 200 freestylers did at the SEC Championships. UNC was second, and Florida State was third, but neither went a time that’s going to scare anybody in March.
Scores after Day 1:
- University of North Carolina 74
- University of Virginia 68
- Florida State University 62
- Virginia Tech 54
- University of Miami 54
- Duke University 50
- North Carolina State 50
- Clemson University 40
- Maryland 34
- Boston College 30
- Georgia Tech 18
Big Ten Women
The Big Ten women’s battle is as tight as expected based on the teams’ rankings. There is a tie between Indiana and Wisconsin, with Minnesota only two points back.
The Badgers kicked off the meet with a big win in the 200 medley in a 1:36.89. There is no surprise that, with their loaded foursome of Maggie Meyer, Ashley Wanland, Rebecka Palm, and Rebecca Thompson busted out a spectacular time that sits second in the nation behind only the time that Auburn put up today. Minnesota was better than expected in second with a 1:37.37, and Michigan was third in 1:38.3. Indiana got off to a slow start, with a fifth place finish.
But the Hoosiers came roaring back in the second relay of the opening night to take the win in a 7:01.13. This sits them only behind Florida and Georgia in the national rankings. It was a great battle, as we expected, between them and Ohio State, who was second in 7:02.64. Indiana’s Brittany Strumbel, who is the favorite to win the individual 200 free, led off the Hoosiers in 1:43.93. Freshman Megan Detro looked very good for Ohio State, with a 1:44.25.
For each of these great performances, there was a disappointing one for each of the top 2 relays. Margaux Farrell from Indiana probably hoped for better than a 1:45.2, and Ohio State’s Sam Cheverton probably felt the same about her 1:45.0.
Minnesota was consistent, with three 1:46’s, for third in 7:06.52.
Things are just heating up in Bloomington, but thus far the edge goes to the two squads who have earned the victory bonus points, Indiana and Wisconsin, over Minnesota’s consistency. Things should remain close through tomorrow for the top 5 or 6 squads before really shaking out on Day 3.
- Indiana 68
- Wisconsin 68
- Minnesota 66
- Ohio State 58
- Purdue 56
- Penn State 56
- Michigan 54
- Northwestern 46
- Illinois 32
- Iowa 32
- Michigan State 24