- Dates: Tuesday, February 18th – Saturday, February 22nd (Co-Ed); prelims 10AM/Finals 6PM
- Location: Gabrielsen Natatorium, University of Georgia (Eastern Time Zone)
- Defending Champion: Florida (results)
- Live Results: Available.
- Live Video (If available): Here Tuesday, Wednesday; ESPN3 on Friday, Saturday.
- Championship Central
Last year, the story of the men’s SEC Championship meet was the Auburn men’s SEC Championship streak which had stood at 16 years, when Gregg Troy’s Florida Gators pulled off the win in 2013 in College Station.
This year, the meet moves on to Athens, Georgia from February 18th-22nd, and the Florida men look even better this season with some of their freshmen making immediate impacts already, and with them in contention to win as many as 5-or-6 individual NCAA titles.
Their relays have come together nicely as well, with Corey Main showing a previously-unknown level of freestyle ability.
But it’s not so simple to just etch the Gators’ name into the trophy as champions just quite yet. That’s because the whole conference has gotten better. That’s partially because there were very few graduations, but it’s also partially because there are so many high-impact freshman, and so many more swimmers coming from places like Alabama and South Carolina who will have an A-final impact. The A&M men, though they graduated their best swimmer, have caught first a little bit too; the Georgia men are building off of an incredible summer; even the diving has gotten better.
As an indicator of how few graduations there were from the conference, take a look at the 200 medley relay, which is the meet’s first swimming event. There were 10 relays entered from 10 schools in the conference that sponsor men’s swimming. In those 10 relays last year, there were only 10 seniors. No individual relay had more than two seniors. The #3-#5 relays (Florida-Georgia-Missouri) didn’t graduate anybody.
We’ll dig into more specific races later, but that’s just a sampling of how strong the conference should be this year.
Since the SEC is only in their 2nd year of their new 5-day schedule, that they began last year, here’s a reminder of which races fall on which days. That should absolutely affect the outcome of the meet, especially for anybody who is attempting the 100 fly/100 back double – those races are now well spaced out.
200 Medley Relay
800 Free Relay
200 Free Relay
400 Medley Relay
400 Free Relay
Alabama – BJ Hornikel (senior freestyler), Kristian Gkolomeev (freshman sprinter), Anton McKee (freshman breaststroker), Connor Oslin (freshman backstroker) – The number of freshmen on this list, and who lead Alabama in different events, is a sign of how well Dennis Pursley did in his first year of recruiting by hitting the international markets.
Auburn – Marcelo Chierighini (senior sprinter), James Disney-May (senior freestyler), Zane Grothe (senior distance freestyler), Joe Patching (freshman backstroker) – This is a senior-heavy team, but will also rely on freshmen Patching and Duderstadt heavily in the medleys. A full season for Arthur Mendes will help the Tigers this year.
Florida – Bradley deBorde (senior sprinter), Sebastien Rousseau (senior Mid-D everything), Pawel Werner (sophomore freestyler/sprint butterflier), Marcin Cieslak (senior butterflier), Corey Main (sophomore free/back) – The defending SEC champs graduated a few contributors (Jason Taylor, Cameron Martin), but the core of their ‘star group’ remained intact.
Georgia – Nic Fink (junior breaststroke/sprint), Doug Reynolds (senior butterflyer), Matias Koski (sophomore freestyler), Chase Kalisz (sophomore IM’er), Andrew Gemmell (senior distance), Ty Stewart (sophomore fly/back) – Kalisz has been reinstated with the team, but as of yet no word on a return for head coach Jack Bauerle.
Kentucky – Lucas Gerotto (junior butterflier), Chris Lott (senior sprinter), Eric Bruck (senior sprinter), Greg Ferrucci (senior diver) – The Wildcats are training under new head coach Lars Jorgensen, and the really exciting thing to watch will be how much success Eric Bruck can have; he was a part of the group that saw off the Clemson program with some really impressive results in those last few years.
LSU – Michael Young (junior backstroker), Marco Gonzalez (junior freestyler), Frank Greeff (juni0r butterflier), Sean McKinney (senior diver) – Greeff is an under-the-radar All-American, and could be a top 5 finisher in the 200 fly at this year’s SEC Championship meet.
Missouri – Sam Tierney (junior breaststroker), David Bonuchi (senior diver), Mack Darragh (junior butterflier), Eegan Groome (junior freestyler), Max Grodecki (sophomore sprint free/fly) – This Missouri team is deeper than it’s been in recent memory, and that’s a quality that should serve them well at the SEC Championships.
South Carolina – Michael Flach (senior middle distance/fly), Marwan el Kamash (sophomore distance swimmer), Kevin Leithold (redshirt freshman breaststroker/freestle) – El Kamash and Gerard Rodriguez have turned into phenomenal training partners for Flach, the team’s big star, and it’s shown in the times for all three this season. Having the German Leithold coming off of a redshirt makes the Gamecocks’ 800 free relay a very, very good one.
Tennessee – Luke Percy (freshman sprinter), Sean Lehane (sophomore backstroker), Sam Rairden (senior sprinter/backstroker), Mauricio Robles (junior diver) – Lehane and Rairden were the two big surprises of last year’s SEC Championship meet. They won’t surprise anyone this season, but they will bring backup: Percy is the most impressive freshman sprinter in the country this season.
Texas A&M – Kyle Troskot (senior freestyler), Hendrik Lindau (senior sprinter/butterflier), Omar Enriquez (senior distance freestyler) – This A&M team still isn’t deep enough to be really competitive at SEC’s, but it’s built a lot more like a classic Aggie team: relays, relays, relays. Look for them to have a bigger impact at NCAA’s than SEC’s.
400 Free Relay – This was a great race last year, with both Auburn and Florida splitting 2:50’s for a 1-2 finish at SEC’s. This year’s race should be even better; Auburn has to replace Kyle Owens, and has done so quite well with super sprint freshman Kyle Darmody. Florida has found a new sprinter in Corey Main, who last year was more of a backstroker, which makes them potential NCAA Champions after not graduating anybody. Auburn currently ranks #4 in the country, and Florida #7 in the event. A surprise Missouri team isn’t far behind them at #9 (just half-a-second slower than Florida), with Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama bringing a lot of quality as well. It’s hard to pick against Florida with how well they’ve swum this year; a lot of their guys aren’t sprint freestylers, but they sure do sprint freestyle. Auburn is still “sprint U” and have the country’s best in Marcelo Chierighini, which is an ace that nobody in the country can match.
400 IM – There could be a little built up tension behind this 400 IM. Last year, Georgia’s Chase Kalisz, then a freshman, was the NCAA Champion in the event. The man who might have beaten him was Florida’s Sebastien Rousseau, but he was DQ’ed in prelims. Rousseau is a senior and is back for vengeance, but Kalisz has taken his versatility to a new level this season. If there’s a can’t-miss race at this meet, it’s the 400 IM. Of course, last year, Rousseau didn’t swim this race at SEC’s, and since the conference doesn’t force its coaches to cut before psych sheets come out, we won’t know until later in the meet if this battle is actually going to happen. Points-wise, there’s certainly more logical places to put him with the Gators’ depth in the 400 IM.
500 Free – Everyone knew Georgia sophomore Matias Koski was going to be good last year when he was a freshman. His SEC Championship, though, in the 500 free early in the meet caught us off guard. He dropped five seconds from prelims to win the title by a full second over some great swimmers: South Carolina’s Michael Flach and Auburn’s Zane Grothe. Koski had other good swims at the meet, but none that were nearly to the level of that one finals 500 that he popped. Flach and Grothe are both seniors this year, and Florida’s Andrea D’Arrigo, another freshman, could be in the mix, as could Missouri’s Eegan Groome. There’s already been 8 guys in the conference under 4:20 in the 500 representing four schools, and that doesn’t even include Flach (he’s the 9th seed at 4:21).
50 Free – Because this is the SEC! And the SEC is about SPEED! Marcelo Chierighini from Auburn is the defending champ, and wants to leave his legacy. Florida’s Brad DeBorde matched Chierighini to the turn, but came up just a hair short coming home. If Kyle Troskot or the freshman Luke Percy can get in on this one, that would be even better, but DeBorde vs. Chierighini is worth the price of a ticket alone.
Don’t see a whole lot changing from last year’s final standings in this one. The only thing that might happen is with so many Florida NCAA qualifiers already, the Gators could really slog their way through this meet and focus on nationals. However, Florida’s “slogging through training” the last couple of years has been better than it once was; much better, so that might not even close the 200 point gap.
Everything through the 3-4-5 ranks should tighten up considerably, with Missouri looking deeper, and Tennessee developing the beginnings of a strong nucleus. However, Georgia is too deep in their 10-17 spots in the roster and should hold on to 3rd.
The LSU men got a big morale-boosting win in their dual meet against Texas A&M, and so they could run as high as 6th at this meet if they fire on all cylinders.
Alabama didn’t graduate a whole lot of points, and with the emergence of freshmen Connor Oslin, Kristian Gkolomeev, and Anton McKee, their relays look really good.
Remember that in the SEC, finals are scored through the C heat, which means that there’s a minimum of 22 points awarded for finishers in the top 8. So, when looking at last year’s scoring, note that the gaps between teams aren’t as big as they appear.
6. Texas A&M
9. South Carolina