Going into Thursday night, the Auburn men were hanging on to a 5.5 point lead over Florida, as they look to extend their impressive 16-year SEC Championship streak. However, with only 4 championship finalists and 5 other non-scoring swims this morning, Auburn now has ground to make up on Friday and Saturday. The Gators, fueled by strong performances in the 400 IM and 100 fly (where they put 4 and 3 swimmers, respectively, into the A-Final), jumped Auburn heading into Friday. In total, Florida had 9 of their 16 swims in Championship Final heats tonight, with only two of their swims failing to score. Georgia–led by their incredible freshman class–has a stronghold on third place.
With 790 points, the Georgia women began to separate themselves from the field tonight, after a lights-out morning where they claimed 10 Championship Finals spots (double the total of rivals Texas A&M and Florida), including 5 in the 200 freestyle alone. Florida (676 points) and Texas A&M (659 points) remain in a dogfight for the second spot, with the Tennessee women solidly in 4th (557 points, more than 200 ahead of 5th).
And here… we… go…
Men’s 400 IM Final
Showing no signs of wear after his preliminary battle with Connor Signorin, Georgia freshman Chase Kalisz used an impressive back-half to pull away from the field, winning with a 3:39.82. Kalisz, who trained with North Baltimore Aquatic Club this fall prior to arriving at Athens for the spring semester, showed patience through his first 200 yards before dropping the hammer on the field with an even-split breaststroke leg (30.23-30.33 for a 1:00.56) and strong freestyle (51.09). This is a well-practiced race strategy to Kalisz, who finished 6th at Olympic Trials this summer, and looks to step into the 400 IM void left by the retirement of Ryan Lochte and former training partner Michael Phelps. Kalisz’s time is the fastest in the country this year by well over a second.
Dan Wallace, one of four Gators in the heat, pushed the pace early to lead at the 200 mark, and held on to finish 2nd in 3:41.95, giving him the 4th fastest time in the country so far this year. That’s a big drop (his previous best was 3:44), and is a sign of good things to come for the rest of the season for him. Another Georgia freshman, Ty Stewart (3:43.91), fought neck-and-neck with Gator teammates Carlos Omana (3:44.04), Signorin (3:44.14), and Matt Elliott (3:44.33) to claim 3rd (just 0.03 off the NCAA ‘A’ standard). With the new NCAA qualifying procedures, those times should make NCAAs. Jared Markham (3:45.89) and Jordan Jones (3:47.48).
In the B-Final, Eduardo Solaeche Gomez (Florida) out-touched Tristan Slater (Tennessee) by seven one-hundredths to win in 3:45.68.
Women’s 400 IM Final
In any other conference (for instance, their old home in the Big 12), Cammile Adams and Sarah Henry would likely be considered heavy favorites to run away from the field. The SEC, however, remains Elizabeth Beisel‘s territory, who defended her SEC title in impressive fashion with a time of 3:59.53. That’s her season best, as she retains the country’s top time through week 1 of conference championship season. Notably, her time was faster at this meet last year, when she dropped a 3:58.35 that stands as the SEC record.
Adams (4:02.12) and Henry (4:03.75) rounded out the top three to score big points for Texas A&M. Both ladies were just off their season bests; like Beisel, they were already safely qualified for NCAA’s (they hold the second and third fastest times in the country), and are likely not fully tapered for this meet. Georgia claimed the 4-7 spots with the quartet Annie Zhu (4:05.55), Hali Flickinger (4:09.53), Amber McDermott (4:09.75), and Nicole Vernon (4:12.09). Ashlee Linn, a freshman from Florida, finished 8th.
Florida, doing their best to limit the damage from Georgia tonight, took the top two spots in the B-Final, led by Jess Thielmann (4:09.99).
Men’s 100 Butterfly Final
After opening up a big lead in the standings over Auburn in the 400 IM, Marcin Cieslak maintained the momentum for Florida with a 46.02 to win the 100 fly. That’s his best time of the year, and is second in the country overall. An excellent IMer and mid-distance freestyler, Cieslak didn’t even swim this event at SEC’s last year (he won the 200 free on the same day of the meet) before reverting back to his main stroke to finish 3rd in the event at NCAA’s.
Sam Rairden (46.19) of Tennessee dropped a half-second to touch second in what has been a fantastic meet for the Volunteers and coach Matt Kredich in his first SEC’s since the men’s and women’s programs combined last spring. Rairden is now tied for third-fastest in the country this year. That broke a school record as well, with butterfly records being the most hallowed at the butterfly mecca in Knoxville. Doug Reynolds of Georgia beat out a tight field for 3rd with a lifetime best of 46.40 to keep him in the country’s top 5, as well. Henrik Lindau (TA&M – 46.50), Cameron Martin (FLOR – 46.64), Arthur Mendes (AUB – 46.69), Brad deBorde (FLOR – 46.69), and Matt Ellis (UGA – 46.83) rounded out the top 8.
Women’s 100 Butterfly Final
Having already established herself as a lights-out relay swimmer this week, Natalie Hinds of Florida got the job done in the women’s 100 fly, going a lifetime-best of 51.70. The Midland, Texas native blitzed the field on the front half of the race, (out in 24.02) and held off Olivia Scott of Auburn (51.75) and Caroline McElhany of Texas A&M (51.86) for the win. Overall, those stand as the three fastest times in the country this year. McElhany’s teammate Paige Miller (52.07) finished 5th, just behind Tennessee senior Kelsey Floyd (52.05), but good enough to get under the NCAA ‘A’ Standard of 52.11. Aussie Ellese Zalewski (52.13) of Florida came next, followed by Laura Harrington (UGA – 52.40), and Danielle Barbiea (UMIZ – 52.93).
Notably, Christina Bechtel of Kentucky had an excellent swim out of the C-Final, dropping almost a full second to go 53.38, which would have finished 3rd in the B-Final.
Men’s 3-meter Diving Final
Missouri’s David Bonuchi won his second springboard event of this meet, taking the 3-meter competition with a score of 441.95 to dominate the competition. As great as the swimming has been at this meet, that performance will ultimately shine through as one of the best and most dominant of this meet. He hit two dives over 80 points. Runner-up Greg Ferrucci from Kentucky, 2nd in 405.55, did that as well (impressive for any college diver) but there was a big difference between the two. Ferrucci on his second-to-last dive cracked when this competition was close with 3.5’s, almost missing his reverse 2 1/2 pike somersault, while Bonuchi never scored below 60.
Watch out for Ferrucci though, if he clears up that last dive he’ll be a force at NCAAs, because he’s got some big scores on this three meter.
Auburn’s John Santieu did all he could hope for in 3rd with a score of 395.20. This was the one event where Auburn was able to make a serious dent on Florida’s growing lead.
Men’s 200 Freestyle Final
Florida continued their strong night session with a 1-2 finish in the 200 free, their fourth victory this evening. Freshman Pawel Werner and junior Sebastian Rousseau pulled away from the field in the final 50, with Werner getting the touch (1:33.82) over his teammate (1:34.02). His time was actually a half second slower than his 800 free relay lead-off on Tuesday night (1:33.23, good for 2nd fastest in the NCAA this year), but it was enough for Werner to win his first individual SEC crown. The freshman from Poland hung back for the first 50 before hitting the gas pedal and rattling off three straight sub-24 splits (22.53-23.64-23.84-23.81).
Rousseau, the South African native who turned in the fastest split (1:32.81) in the 800 free relay field on Tuesday, flipped even with Werner at the last 50 but couldn’t quite keep pace. Coach Gregg Troy has a decision to make regarding Rousseau’s NCAA events; he finished in the top 8 two years ago in the 200 free and has plenty of speed, but also had the 2nd fastest time in the 400 IM coming into this weekend.
BJ Hornikel provided Alabama their highest individual finish so far, going out hard (45.48 at the 100) before fading to 3rd in 1:35.23. His morning time of 1:34.67 is good for 9th in the country overall. With the new NCAA selection procedure, he should safely be in (although there are many conference meets left to be swam). Michael Flach (South Carolina – 1:35.25), Zane Grothe (AUB – 1:35.61), James Disney-May (AUB – 1:35.88), Matias Koski (UGA – 1:35.89), and Gerard Rodriguez (South Carolina – 1:36.42) were the rest of the A-Final.
John Dalton went out fast, and ultimately ran away with the B-Final in 1:35.24. His time would have been good for 4th (and just one one-hundredth behind 3rd) in the A-Final.
Women’s 200 Freestyle Final
In a heat filled with four Olympians and two additional NCAA record holders, Lindsay Gendron bettered the loaded field for the win, with a time of 1:43.22. Gendron turned in the fastest last two 50’s of a championship final that was complete with FIVE Georgia swimmers, including all four members of the NCAA record-setting 800 free relay from Tuesday night. Of course, Gendron is no slouch; she was under 1:44 last year at NCAA’s, and she dropped a lightning-quick 1:42.89 anchor leg in the 800 free relay on Tuesday night. A best time was certainly in the works. But a victory here (the heat included the current short course and long course American record holders in the event) could propel Gendron to a great NCAA meet. She now has the country’s 2nd fastest time.
Georgia went 2-3-4 with Megan Romano (1:43.38), Allison Schmitt (1:43.46), and Shannon Vreeland (1:44.30). Look for all three to be much faster in three weeks; they all likely have a lot more to taper off of (scary to think about). Schmitt has been in the low 1:42’s this season, Vreeland has been 1:43.3, and Romano just happens to be the American record holder in the event (a positively ridiculous 1:41.21).
Sinead Russell, the Canadian freshman from Florida, was 5th in 1:44.54. Mexican Olympian Liliana Ibañez Lopez (A&M – 1:44.65) came next, followed by Jordan Mattern (UGA – 1:45.24), and Kelsey Gaid (UGA – 1:46.38).
Men – Team Rankings – Through Event 21
1. University of Florida 748 2. Auburn University 630.5
3. Georgia, University of 549 4. Texas A&M University 426.5
5. Tennessee, University of, Knox 421 6. Louisiana State University 353.5
7. University of Missouri 344 8. University of South Carolina 314.5
9. University of Alabama 270 10. University of Kentucky 247
Women – Team Rankings – Through Event 22
1. Georgia, University of 790 2. University of Florida 676
3. Texas A&M University 659 4. Tennessee, University of, Knox 557
5. Auburn University 353 6. University of Missouri 297
6. Louisiana State University 297 8. Arkansas, University of, Fayet 280
9. University of Kentucky 220 10. University of Alabama 176
11. University of South Carolina 148 12. Vanderbilt University 93