Day 2 of the 2014 SEC Championships should see scores start to normalize a little bit, as diving won’t be disproportionately factored in as it is after the first day of this five-day format. The only diving on Wednesday is the men’s 1-meter final, which will happen just before the 200 free relays at the end of the session. Those 200 free relays will join the 500 free, the 200 IM, and the 50 free on the day’s schedule. Based on what we saw in prelims and are expecting in finals, anticipate that the Auburn men will hold onto their lead after day 2, but it will be very close between them and Florida.
On the women’s side, Georgia should also stay on top, thanks to 9 individual A-finals qualifiers with Florida holding just 7. At the SEC’s, every race has a good battle at the top, but the two to really keep an eye on tonight are Florida’s Brad deBorde vs. Auburn’s Marcelo Chierighini in the 50 free, and Georgia’s Melanie Margalis vs. Florida’s Elizabeth Beisel in the women’s 200 IM.
- Dates: Tuesday, February 18th – Saturday, February 22nd (Co-Ed); prelims 10AM/Finals 6PM
- Location: Gabrielsen Natatorium, University of Georgia (Eastern Time Zone)
- Defending Champion: Georgia (4x – women), Florida (men) (results)
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- Championship Central
Women’s 500 Free – FINALS
Georgia’s team graduated a lot after last year, but as they always do, the Bulldogs have reloaded their middle-distance group in a huge way. Georgia started Wednesday’s finals off with a 1-2-3 finish in the 500 freestyle, including sophomore Brittany MacLean going 4:34.63 to win, just barely separated from senior teammate Shannon Vreeland in 4:34.73.They both topped the SEC Championship Record set by Caroline Burckle back in 2008.
Closing out the podium sweep was junior teammate Amber McDermott in 4:35.00. Along with 7th-place finisher, freshman Rachel Zilinskas in 4:39.31, the Bulldogs extended their lead very early in the finals session, and did so with one member of each class. That’s a strong way to build a championship-caliber team.
Behind the Bulldog sweep were A&M’s two National Team swimmers. Senior Cammile Adams took 4th in 4:35.67, and red shirt junior Sarah Henry was 5th in 4:36.53. Henry got off to a slow start and despite fighting back, ran out of room, while Adams just got out-battled at the end of the race.
Florida freshman Danielle Valley was 6th in 4:39.00, which is her lifetime best, and after Zilinskas in 7th, Jess Thielmann, another Gator, rounded out the A-final in 8th with a 4:41.89. Thelmann was the only swimmer in that A-final to not improve from prelims.
The Tennessee and Arkansas women look ‘on’ so far in this finals session, with multiple swimmers from each team dropping huge chunks from prelims in the B and C finals. That includes B-Final winner Lindsay Gendron from Tennessee in 4:39.04; and Arkansas’ Lauren Jordan winning the C-final in 4:42.95.
Men’s 500 Free – FINALS
It’s become clear early in this meet that the gloves are off, and the Florida Gators men’s team are legitimate NCAA contenders. Junior Dan Wallace and freshman Mitch D’Arrigo pushed away from the pack early in this men’s 500 free, and with a huge last-25 burst of speed (he split 24.3 on his last 50), Wallace roared away to an SEC Meet Record of 4:10.73, breaking Conor Dwyer’s old Championship Record in the event.
There’s nobody in the country that we’ve seen so far who can close the way Wallace closed that race, and his time was faster than the one with which Michigan’s Connor Jaeger won last year’s NCAA title. We may see next week a few of the Michigan guys show that ability, but so far, a 24.3 will be unmatchable.
D’Arrigo wound up 2nd in 4:12.73, and the defending champion, Matias Koski from Georgia, was 3rd in 4:14.96 – not far off of the time with which he won last year. Koski was followed by his teammate Will Freeman (4:17.10) and South Carolina sophomore Marwan el Kamash (4:17.41) in a lifetime best was 5th. Closing out the A-final was Georgia’s Andrew Gemmell in 4:17.69, Florida’s Arthur Frayler in 4:18.17, and Auburn’s Zane Grothe in 4:19.01. In the men’s race, it was South Carolina who left a lot of points on the board after prelims, it would seem.
They went 1-2 in the C Final with Michael Flach (4:18.53) and Gerard Rodriguez (4:19.82) both dropping at least 4.5 seconds off of their morning swims. Flach was 2nd in the SEC in this event last year, but he should still be safely into NCAA qualifying.
Women’s 200 IM – FINALS
Georgia’s Melanie Margalis has been on a mission all season long, and she showed that in this women’s 200 IM final with a scorching 1:52.87, which is the fastest time in the country this season. It wasn’t a surprise that she beat Elizabeth Beisel on the fly leg, or the breaststroke leg, or even perhaps the freestyle leg; however she out-split the runner-up from Florida on the backstroke leg 28.70-29.03, and that shows just how locked-in the Bulldog is right now.
Beisel wound up 2nd in 1:54.26, and Texas A&M’s Erica Dittmer took 3rd in 1:55.58 on the front-half of her rare 200 IM/50 free double. Georgia sophomore Annie Zhu was 4th in 1:57.47, which was a ways slower than she was for the same position at last year’s meet, and another Aggie Ashley McGregor placed 5th in 1:57.49.
Florida’s Lindsey McKnight (1:58.61), Georgia’s Hali Flickinger (1:58.63), and Florida’s Ashlee Linn (1:58.70) rounded out the top 8. Texas A&M picked up some crucial points in what should be an intense team battle with Caroline McElhany (1:57.58) and Sycerika McMahon (1:58.08) taking the top two spots in the B-final.
Men’s 200 IM – FINALS
The Florida men, like the Georgia women, are on a roll at this meet, and they grabbed another 1-2 finish in the men’s 200 IM.
This 200 IM, though, was incredibly close, but at the end, Sebastien Rousseau was just too balanced across the four strokes to be caught, winning in 1:42.22 for an NCAA Automatic Qualifying Time.
His senior teammate Marcin Cieslak took 2nd in 1:42.34, only giving up the lead on the freestyle leg. Georgia’s Chase Kalisz, the defending champion, was 3rd in 1:42.53, as he and teammate Nic Fink (1:43.03 – 4th) did a lot of damage on the breaststroke leg, as one might expect.
Those two teams accounted for all of the top 6. Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez placed 5th in 1:43.24, and Georgia’s Ty Stewart was 6th in 1:44.03.
Tennessee junior Tristan Slater finished in the same spot as last year, 7th, but with a faster time of 1:44.84, and Texas A&M’s Simon Frank capped the A-final in 1:45.85.
Auburn freshman Joe Patching was the highest frosh finisher, winning the B-final in 1:44.26.
Women’s 50 Free – FINALS
For the second-straight year, a freshman has won the women’s 50 free at the SEC Championships. After last year’s co-champion for Georgia, Chantal van Landeghem, wound up in the B final (she wound up 10th overall in 22.32), Olivia Smoliga took up the torch and won the race for the Bulldogs in 21.54.
That gave the Georgia women a sweep of the three individual events so far in the meet, and with a relay left to go, a sweep of all of the meets events, relays, individuals, and diving, through 6 results.
Smoliga’s teammate Maddie Locus was 2nd in 21.67, and the other co-champ from last year Faith Johnson of Tennessee took 3rd in 21.84.
Florida sophomore Natalie Hinds was about the same time that she went to take the top seed in prelims with a 21.91 for 4th, and A&M’s Erica Dittmer completed her tough double with a 21.98 – the first time in her career under 22 seconds (she’d only been 22.3 on a flat-start coming into this meet).
Lili Ibanez was 6th in 22.07, also for Texas A&M, Auburn’s Allyx Purcell was 7th in 22.15, and Florida’s Ellese Zalewski was 8th in 22.30.
Arkansas had another big evening swim when Susanna White won the B-final in 22.27.
Men’s 50 Free – FINALS
The Florida men completed a sweep of their own to this point, at least of the swimming events (they didn’t win diving on day 1), with Brad deBorde winning the men’s 50 free in 18.88.
In the process, he broke his own school record to become the first Gator under 19 seconds; and beat the defending SEC Champion and this year’s NCAA favorite in the race, Marcelo Chierighini of Auburn. Chierighini took 2nd in 19.18.
Auburn did fairly well in this race with a 2-3 finish, as freshman Kyle Darmody was 3rd in 19.21, but their other two finalists TJ Leon (19.60) and James Disney-May (19.69) slid to 7th and 8th places, respectively, so they didn’t do as well as they needed to.
After Darmody was Alabama freshman Kristian Gkolomeev was 4th in 19.23, followed by Alabama’s BJ Hornikel (19.45) and Tennessee freshman Luke Percy (19.52).
In one of the more feel-good stories of the championship season, Kentucky senior Erick Bruck was a 19.47 to win the B final in this race. That should lock up a spot for him at NCAA’s; he was part of the group who lost their competitive outlet at Clemson when they cut their program, and he’s now wound up with the Wildcats, and is swimming very well.
Texas A&M’s Cory Bolleter won the C-Final in 19.74, surprisingly ahead of senior teammate Kyle Troskot (19.77).
Men’s 1-Meter Diving – FINALS
The Auburn men got a big diving boost when John Santieu had just barely enough breathing room to hold off Tennessee’s Mauricio Robles for the men’s 1-meter title. With Fraser McKean placing 3rd, and Florida’s top diver placing 18th, this left the Tigers with a little bit of hope through two days of the meet.
Ultimately, it was Santieu’s execution that gave him the win, as Robles, who was a mere .05 points behind at the end of the competition (the equivalent of .01 seconds in a race), had a harder dive lineup.
The 3-meter champ Ford McLiney from Texas A&M was 4th on the 1-meter, and the top 6 in this final were separated by only 11 points.
Women’s 200 Free Relay
The Georgia women kept their unbeaten streak alive through the first two days of this meet, and once again led off by their star freshman Olivia Smoliga, they won the women’s 200 free relay in 1:27.09. The Bulldogs were quite consistent in this relay, with Smoliga leading off in 21.80, followed by Locus (21.83), Jessica Graber (21.83), and Van Landeghem anchoring (21.63), their splits were all very even, but they were all even and fast.
They were the only relay with four swimmers under 22 seconds, and in fact the only relay with more than two under 22 seconds. The runners-up from Tennessee swam a 1:28.37, including a 21.55 second leg from Faith Johnson that was the fastest split of the day.
Texas A&M got 3rd in 1:28.48. Senior Lili Ibanez wasn’t great on the lead-off leg (22.44), but Erica Dittmer continued to be incredibly clutch, and in her third straight event anchored Texas A&M home in 21.57. Breeja Larson made her free relay debut in that race, with a 22.17 split.
Auburn was 4th in 1:28.63, and Florida rounded out the NCAA Automatic Qualifiers with a 5th-place 1:28.70.
Men’s 200 Free Relay
The Auburn men, with four 50 freestylers in the A-final individually earlier in the session, had a huge performance in the men’s 200 free relay to win in 1:15.98. That’s already only half-a-second shy of what they went to win NCAA’s last year (and faster than anyone else was at NCAA’s last year).
Marcelo Chierighini led off in 19.04, faster than he was in the individual, and he was followed by James Disney-May (19.35), TJ Leon (19.02), and freshman Kyle Darmody on the anchor (18.57). A big question coming into the meet was if Auburn, an otherwise very veteran team, could replace Kyle Owens, who graduated. The evidence so far: Darmody anchored in 18.57, and at NCAA’s last season Owens anchored in 18.56.
Auburn’s win was not a huge surprise, but Alabama’s 2nd-place finish was a pleasant one. They touched the wall in 1:16.26, which broke the old school record by two-and-a-half seconds. That included an 18.72 anchor on a great exchange by sophomore Brett Walsh.
The Florida men, who had won every swimming event up until this point, took 3rd in 1:16.88, with deBorde leading off in 19.13 and Corey Main splitting an 18.77 on the second leg. Sophomore Pawel Werner, who hasn’t looked sharp at this meet, was just a 19.62 on the Gators’ 3rd leg, which allowed Alabama and Auburn to catch up, and eventually overtake them.
Tennessee placed 4th (1:17.11), and Texas A&M was 5th (1:17.32).
The Georgia women are running away with the meet early. They’ve already built a 150 point lead on Florida, and if they continue swimming like they have been, with the 400 IM and 200 free on tap for Thursday, they won’t give any of it back.
That leaves Texas A&M and Florida in a fight for 2nd, with Florida holding a small edge thus far. Don’t expect those two to get too far apart on Thursday, either, as both have good days ahead, per the psych sheets at least.
1. Georgia, University of 577
2. University of Florida 421
3. Texas A&M University 417
4. Tennessee, University of, Knox 312
5. Arkansas, University of, Fayet 217
6. University of Missouri 199
7. Louisiana State University 191
8. University of Alabama 183
9. Auburn University 181
10. Kentucky, University of 156
11. South Carolina, University of 109
12. Vanderbilt University 94
Despite Florida dominating at the top of races, Auburn’s sprint depth and diving maintains a 122.5-point lead for them ahead of the Florida Gators. Despite what intuition says about how well Florida is doing, Auburn’s lead after the first day last year was only 4.5 points. Don’t count out the Tigers yet.
Georgia has a firm hold on 3rd, with pretty much everyone else fighting for 4th.
1. Auburn University 574
2. University of Florida 451.5
3. Georgia, University of 414
4. Texas A&M University 296
5. Tennessee, University of, Knox 289
6. University of Alabama 285
7. University of Missouri 266
8. South Carolina, University of 251
9. Kentucky, University of 239
10. Louisiana State University 208.5