With the team titles basically locked-up for the Georgia women and the Florida men, the story is going to be mostly about individual swims on the final night of the 2014 SEC Championships.
There’s going to be some whoppers, too. Brad deBorde will be looking inward upon Marcelo Chierighini in the men’s 100 free, but deBorde is still probably the favorite. In the women’s 200 back, Georgia freshman Rachel Zilinskas will try and fend off a pair of the best in the country from Florida, Elizabeth Beisel and Sinead Russell. Finally, in the women’s 200 breaststroke, Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson will look for her second NCAA and American Records in as many nights.
There are still a few more minor stories to watch in the team scoring; the A&M women and the Florida women should have a decent battle for 2nd; while the Alabama men have some shot at moving up to 4th place, which would be their highest finish since the 90’s (they’re 66 points behind MIssouri, and 62 points behind Texas A&M).
Refresh the page frequently, as we’ll update events while they happen.
- 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)
- Live Results
- Live Video: ESPN3.com
- Championship Central
Women’s 1650 Freestyle – TIMED FINALS
Brittany MacLean has moved into bona-fide superstar territory in the distance freestyles with a 15:40.77 to win the SEC title on Saturday evening. That gave her a 10-second margin of victory over her teammate Amber McDermott (15:50.45), and the splits were pretty incredible.
MacLean was out in 4:47.0 – a solid start, but McDermott and 3rd-place finisher Sarah Henry were right with her. Even at the 1000, after another 4:47 500-yard split, MacLean was only about two seconds ahead of the field.
But then in the next 500, she was a 4:46.7 – even faster, and she still had the energy to close in better than 55 seconds in her last 100 yards.
The swim was masterful to watch. The consistency of her pace was incredible, and the seemingly-endless pool of energy from which she drew was unreal. That marks the 7th-fastest mile in NCAA history (though, of course, most of the fastest miles have been from Katie Ledecky and Kate Ziegler, who never swam in college). It also broke the Meet Record set by A&M’s Henry last year by five seconds when Henry went on to place 2nd at NCAA’s; and is five seconds faster than the time that won NCAA’s last year.
Henry wound up 3rd in this race in 15:52.74, followed by Florida freshman Danielle Valley in 15:53.94. Another Gator, Alicia Mathieu, was 15:58.64 for 5th place -but she broke the school record mid season in this event and secured her NCAA invite there, so she’s in a different spot in her training than a lot of her team.
Georgia’s Rachel Zilinskas was 6th in 15:59.51, and was the fastest swimmer out of the early heats. She’s actually going after the 1650 free/200 back double today, as she’s the top seed later on into the final of the 200 back, but that’s more doable for her given that she gets to swim in the earlier heats of the mile. That means she could take on the same double.
Aside: There were a lot of fast times, and maybe enough to bump Elizabeth Beisel out of the top 8 times in the country in the mile. Could the Gators actually consider swimming her in the 1650 free and 200 back at NCAA’s, if she’s able to go in an early heat of the 1650? It’s plausible.
Finishing out the top 8 was Florida’s Jess Thilemann in 16:05.10, and another early-heater Nicole Menzel from Arkansas in 16:15.14.
Men’s 1650 Freestyle – TIMED FINALS
Florida’s Arthur Frayler came to Gainesville with big credentials behind him, and in his freshman year was unable to go a best time in this 1650, his best event.
As a sophomore, though, things got back on track in a big way for the Germantown Academy product, as he’s won his first career SEC title with a 14:38.06 – his best time by 9 seconds, and the top-ranked time in the country so far.
This year, he’s had a new face to push him in training, and that’s freshman Mitch D’Arrigo, who took 2nd in this race in 14:43.15, as Florida went 1-2 ahead of a pair from the vaunted Georgia distance group: a sign of how hot the Gators are right now. U.S. National Teamer Andrew Gemmell took 3rd in 14:45.77, and sophomore Matias Koski was 4th in 14:45.91.
Auburn’s Zane Grothe, the defending champion in the race, was a 14:54.16 for 5th place, followed by two more Georgia swimmers – Will Freeman (14:54.22) and Garrett Powell (15:02.95). Rounding out the top 8 was Kentucky’s Brandon Flynn in 15:03.42, which was the best time coming out of the early heats in this timed finals event.
Women’s 100 Free – FINALS
From the distance event of the 1650 free to the 100 free, the pool got hot in a hurry in the women’s sprint event. It was a tightly packed field, but Georgia’s Olivia Smoliga led four under the 48-second mark with a win in 47.51 – easily her lifetime best.
Smoliga made her mark on the front-half of this race over teammate and runner-up Shannon Vreeland. Whereas Vreeland is more of a 100-200 swimmer, Smoliga has more of the raw speed of a 50-100 swimmer, and so she was able to force the pace early, and that worked out for her in the end. Vreeland took 2nd in 47.64.
In 3rd was Florida’s Natalie Hinds in 47.71 – the same place, but a much faster time, as compared to last year’s SEC meet. The whole field was chasing her down after a 22.9 halfway split. Another Georgia Bulldog, Maddie Locus, took 4th in 47.90.
Texas A&M’s Lili Ibanez was 5th in 48.18, leading another tight battle by holding off Missouri’s Anna Patterson (48.21).
Tennessee finished off the A final with a 48.49 from Faith Johnson for 7th and a 48.64 from Lindsay Gendron for 7th. Georgia’s Chantal van Landeghem won the B final in 48.54, and Leah Troskot, younger sister of A&M sprinter Kyle, won the C final in a lifetime best of 48.97.
Men’s 100 Free – FINALS
Auburn senior Marcelo Chierighini entered this meet as the favorite in both sprint freestyles. Early on, he was outshone by Florida’s Brad deBorde, but in this 100, Chierighini came through big in 41.90 for his third-straight conference title in the 100 free. He was the only swimmer to go out in under 20 seconds (he’s one of the few in the country who do that, now that Morozov is gone), and he was able to hold on for the win.
Almost as impressive is the future of this event in the SEC. The second-place finisher, Luke Percy from Tennessee (42.22), and the 3rd-place finisher, Kyle Darmody from Auburn (42.40), are both just freshmen.
DeBorde wound up in 4th place with a 42.68, which is still a huge improvement off of SEC’s last year (where he was a 43.3 to win the B final).
5th place went to another senior, Alabama’s BJ Hornikel, in 42.81, and the A-final was rounded out by Arthur Mendes (42.94), Kristian Gkolomeev (43.02), and Doug Reynolds (43.12).
Women’s 200 Back – FINALS
Whether the earlier mile affected her or not, it’s hard to say for sure, but Rachel Zilinskas was unable to hold off the Florida pair in this women’s 200 back, as Elizabeth Beisel (1:50.62) and Sinead Russell (1:51.84) went 1-2 in finals. Zilinskas added just a hair, and still took 3rd in 1:52.74.
Beisel’s front-half split of 54.04 in that 100 was very impressive, and that, along with her overall time, were faster than she was at NCAA’s last year (for 3rd place).
Auburn’s Aubrey Peacock took 4th in 1:53.51, and Texas A&M’s Melanie McClure was 5th in 1:54.01.
Georgia’s Jordan Mattern (1:54.06), Arkansas’ Anna Mayfield (1:54.50), and Auburn’s Jillian Vitarius (1:54.98) finished out the top 8.
LSU’s Caley Oquist won the B final in 1:54.87, which gives her both the 100 and 200 backstroke school records this week.
Men’s 200 Back – FINALS
There’s an impressive group of freshman backstrokers in the country right now with the likes of Jack Conger and Ryan Murphy, but lest we forget, Tennessee sophomore Sean Lehane is actually the same age as those guys, and is putting up some impressive times back east.
He swam another lifetime best to win the men’s 200 back on Saturday, putting up a 1:39.64. He got a better push in finals than he did in prelims, with Florida’s Corey Main (1:40.99) hanging with him for most of the race, but over the last 50 yards, Lehane just took off to finish the swim.
After those two sophomores came another sophomore: Georgia’s Ty Stewart in 1:41.81, and Alabama freshman Connor Oslin was 4th in 1:42.46 – yet another Alabama School Record, as the Crimson Tide have been crushing their own books this week.
Florida’s Connor Signorin was 5th in 1:43.06, and Missouri’s Carter Griffin took 6th in 1:43.60.
Georgia’s Jared Markham won the B final in 1:43.30.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke – FINALS
Breeja Larson successfully defended her SEC title in the women’s 200 breaststroke on Saturday, but was unable to improve her time from prelims, swimming 2:05.19 for the win. (Meanwhile, in the ACC, Emma Reaney broke Larson’s NCAA Record.)
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Melanie Margalis, who coasted through prelims but had a big drop in finals to place 2nd in 2:06.23, and her teammate Annie Zhu was 3rd in 2:07.01.
Tennessee’s Molly Hannis was first to the halfway mark in true sprinter fashion, splitting 1:00.6, and finished 4th in 2:07.14. Texas A&M’s Ashley McGregor almost ran her down, but came up 5th in 2:07.38.
Alabama’s Bridget Blood took 6th in 2:08.13, to renew her own school record and for a total of 8.44 seconds of improvement upon her seed time.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke – FINALS
Sitting very close after prelims, Alabama’s Anton McKee and Georgia’s Nic Fink were just about as close in finals, both breaking the old meet record in putting up 1:51s in the 200 breast.
As in prelims, the freshman McKee had the fastest time, going 1:51.59, making up a half-second deficit on Fink in the back half. Fink went 1:51.95 for second place.
Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez wasn’t far behind himself, going 1:52.77 for third place. He was actually ahead of McKee at the 100-mark as well.
Mizzou’s Igor Kozlovskij went 1:54.95 for fourth place, just touching out Florida junior Matt Elliott by .06. A pair of freshmen came next, Alabama’s Pavel Romanov and Auburn’s Michael Duderstadt. South Carolina’s Alex Vance rounded out the heat in 1:56.47.
Women’s Platform Diving – FINALS
Tennessee senior Victoria Lamp won the final diving event of the weekend, scoring 356.10 to top Georgia’s Laura Ryan by about 17. LSU put a pair of divers over 300 with Cassie Weil and Alex Bettridge taking 3rd and 4th.
Georgia’s Ann-Perry Blank added a fifth place finish with a 287.45. Auburn put two junior divers up, and they took sixth and seventh – they were Shanna Schuelein and Cinzia Calabretta.
Women’s 400 Free Relay – FINALS
No better way to cap off a team conference title than by winning the final relay, and that’s what Georgia did. The Bulldogs went 3:11.29 to run away with the title, nearly getting straight 47s across the board. Maddie Locus was the fastest split, going 47.68 on the second leg. Shannon Vreeland led off in 47.70, Chantal VanLandeghem went 48.14 and anchor Olivia Smoliga was 47.77.
Tennessee took second in 3:12.76 – they had a pair of 47s on the end from seniors Kate McNeilis (47.93) and Lindsay Gendron (47.68).
The fastest split of the field, though, came from third-place Florida. Natalie Hinds was a blazing 46.92, and that was with one of the slower relay exchanges of the field. Her Gators went 3:14.11 to beat out Texas A&M.
Men’s 400 Free Relay – FINALS
Auburn’s gauntlet of tough sprinters triumphed in the 400 free relay, going 2:47.49 to win handily. Marcelo Chierighini was outstanding on the leadoff leg, breaking Matt Targett’s SEC meet record by going 41.46 – that’s nearly a half-second faster than his winning time from the open 100 earlier in the night.
Joining Chierighini on that relay were James Disney-May (42.03), Arthur Mendes (42.19) and Kyle Darmody (41.81).
Florida took second with a 2:50.51 – that included a 42.1 split from Bradley deBorde as well as a 42.2 from Corey Main.
Alabama was third in 2:50.78, followed by Tennessee, which went 2:51.14 with a 41.7 leg from Sam Rairden.
When the dust settled, the team scores at the top of the board were pretty much as expected. The Georgia women won big, taking the SEC title by 385 points over Texas A&M – the Aggies were able to hold off Florida by 70 for second place. On the men’s side, the Gators took the trophy over Auburn, with Georgia third and Alabama placing its highest finish in a decade by nipping Missouri for fourth.
1. University of Florida 1440
2. Auburn University 1280.5
3. Georgia, University of 1095
4. University of Alabama 798
5. University of Missouri 742.5
6. Tennessee, University of, Knox 713
7. Texas A&M University 609
8. Kentucky, University of 532
9. Louisiana State University 531
10. South Carolina, University of 491
1. Georgia, University of 1589
2. Texas A&M University 1204
3. University of Florida 1130
4. Auburn University 804
5. Tennessee, University of, Knox 780
6. Arkansas, University of, Fayet 572
7. Louisiana State University 548
8. University of Alabama 526
9. University of Missouri 475.5
10. Kentucky, University of 426
11. South Carolina, University of 260
12. Vanderbilt University 186.5