Day 2 of the 2015 SEC Championships will get into the first individual events of the meet, and prelims will start to give us some idea of the separation that we’re expecting to happen.
Both the Georgia men’s and women’s teams have big opportunities for points with the 500 free and 200 IM as big strengths to their women’s and men’s teams, respectively. This second day will have a different feel, too, than in past years, as the Auburn men won’t be as prevalent in the scoring heats of the 50 free as we’re used to – their best chance on paper at an A-Final in the 50 is Kyle Darmody, the 5 seed, and their next-highest slotted swimmer is Peter Holoda, the 24th seed.
Also keep an eye on the men’s 500 free. Georgia’s Matias Koski had a great relay swim on Tuesday and Kevin Litherland has been very fast as a freshman, but Florida had the top two spots in that race at SEC’s last season and add Nick Alexiou into the fray as well. That should be the race-of-the-day, when looking at 1-8.
2015 SEC Championships
- Tuesday, February 17-Saturday, February 21
- Auburn, Alabama – James E. Martin Aquatic Center
- Prelims/Finals W-F 10AM/6PM, Tuesday 10AM/5:30PM (Central time)
- Defending Champs: Georgia (5x) (results)
- Live results
- Live video
- Championship Central
Men’s 500 Free – Prelims
At last year’s SEC Championship meet, Florida’s Dan Wallace and Mitch D’Arrigo went 1-2 in this 500 free, and after prelims, they’re in position to do the same this year, with Wallace swimming a 4:13.61 for the top seed and D’Arrigo swimming a 4:13.66 for the second seed.
For both swimmers, that’s faster than they were last season, where D’Arrigo was the top seed in prelims in 4:14 and Wallace was a 4:16 for the second seed. It seems unlikely that either will go faster significantly faster in finals than the 4:10 that Wallace swam to break the meet record last year, but it’s clear that they were anticipating a much tougher standard for the top 8 and reacted to that.
The tougher standard is exactly what they got. Whereas a 4:18-mid qualified for the A-Final last year, this year it took a 4:17-low, which caught the top seed coming in Matias Koski off guard. He swam a 4:17.50, which will leave him 9th and in the B-Final. While his 4:13 mid-season indicates that he’s probably just not very rested for this meet (he doesn’t need to be), that’s still a blow to the Bulldogs’ overall title hopes.
Meanwhile, Florida got three swimmers into the A-Final, adding in the 5th-seed Arthur Frayler (4;16.04), and they’ll be joined by a lot of non-traditional SEC powers there.
The 3rd seed is Alabama’s Anton McKee (4:15.36), who was left out of both Crimson Tide relays on Tuesday, shockingly. The 4th seed is Akaram Mahmoud from South Carolina in 4:15.38 – knocking ten seconds off of his seed time. The South Carolian middle-distance group is already showing the effects of their work with new assistant Mark Bernardino, who had decades of success in the same at Virginia. They got two swimmers into this A-Final (freshman Tom Peribonio was a 4:16.84 for the 6th seed), with Marwan el Kamash taking 10th with a 4:17.71.
Tennessee freshman Sam McHugh and Georgia freshman Kevin Litherland round out the A-Final.
This event was a big scoring-win for the Florida men.
Women’s 500 Free – Prelims
For defending SEC and NCAA champion Brittany MacLean, this was a much more controlled prelims swim from her than what we saw last season, where she was a 4:37 on the same morning in the women’s 500 free.
She was able to cruise to a 4:41.80 to be the 5th qualifier without ever really appearing to push her effort in the middle part of the race.
In stark contrast to the men’s race that preceeded it, this was a relatively slow prelim in historical context – last year had five swimmers under 4:40, whereas this year had just one: Texas A&M senior Sarah Henry, who swam a 4:39.50 to take the top seed and center-stage for finals.
She’ll be bounded by Florida’s Jessica Thielmann (4:40.18) and Georgia’s Amber McDermott (4:40.77), which will be an interesting contrast of styles: McDermott likes to push the front part of her 500 free, whereas Henry and Thielmann tend to sit back a little more.
Overall, Georgia will have three of the top five qualifiers. besides McDermott at 3 and MacLean at 5, Rachel Zilinskas also will be in this event, one of Georgia’s strongest, with a 4:41.73 for 4th place in prelims.
The A&M women also got two in, with sophomore Sarah Gibson qualifying 6th in 4:42.39, as did Florida with Taylor Katz in 4:42.49. The one solo representative will be Tennessee sophomore Madeline Tegner, who qualified 8th in 4:42.67. Her best coming into this season was just 4:49.
Anna Mayfield from Arkansas (4:42.83) and Jordan Mattern from Georgia (4:43.03) were the first two out.
Men’s 200 IM – Prelims
The men’s 200 IM prelim was another sign of how much deeper this conference is in prelims of the men’s 200 IM, a 1:44.48 made top 8, which is again a full second faster than last year. This race, unlike the 500, was much more concentrated in the conference’s big powers, however.
That was led by a pair of Georgia bulldogs: Ty Stewart and Chase Kalisz, who swam matching 1:43.4’s to take the top two qualifying spots. As would be expected, Stewart was a little better on the front half, whereas Kalisz was a little better on the back-half, so that should make for an interesting race in finals.
Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez wasn’t far behind, swimming a 1;43.62. He was well ahead of the pace through the breaststroke leg before pumping the brakes on freestyle.
Tennessee’s Tristan Slater qualified 4th in 1:43.84 to make his second-straight A-Final, and behind him goes Mark Szaranek of Florida (1:43.90), Joe Patching of Auburn (1:44.30), Nic Fink of Georgia (1:44.34), and Alexander Hancock of Auburn (1:44.48). That makes three Georgia Bulldogs, two Florida Gators, and two Auburn Tigers in the top 8.
Georgia’s Gunnar Bentz is the 9th seed in 1:44.64 and Auburn freshman Jacob Molacek is 10th in 1:44.95. With 5 swimmers qualifying in the top 12, Georgia should make another big move in finals tonight.
Women’s 200 IM – Prelims
The big powers took the big spots in this women’s 200 IM preliminary round, as the teams expected to contend for the top four team positions title will occupy all 8 spots in the women’s 200 IM.
That’s led by two Florida Gators, Theresa Michalak (1:56.79) and Ashlee Linn (1:57.19). The swim is particularly encouraging for Michalak, who has been in Gainesville a while, but first competed with Florida this semester, and who has been dealing with some health issues as well.
Georgia freshman Meaghan Raab was the top Bulldog qualifier, sitting 3rd in 1:57.45, and she was followed by another Florida Gator Lindsay McKnight in 1:57.57.
The second Georgia finalist is Emily Cameron, who in her sophomore campaign has really turned things around after struggling early in her college career. Interestingly, though she’s primarily a breaststroker, it was her freestyle and butterfly legs that pushed her into this A-Final.
A pair of Aggie freshman will occupy lanes 7 and 1 in the final, with Kristin Malone swimming a 1:57.76 and Bethany Galat posting a 1:57.95. Galat was the top qualifier coming in, and still has the best time in the SEC this season.
Tennessee’s Amanda Carner is the 8th qualifier in 1:58.11.
Alabama freshman Mia Nonnenberg missed forcing a swimoff by a mere .01 seconds, and will be the 9th seed in 1:58.12. She was the biggest early-heat breakout in this race, as she came in seeded at just 2:02.
Men’s 50 Free – Prelims
A culmination of top-tier prelims swims in the morning, defending NCAA Champion Kristian Gkolomeev and superstar freshman Caeleb Dressel will have a monumental battle in the final of the men’s 50 free, set up after the former swam 18.88 and the latter 18.89 in the morning heat. Both times are faster than the marks that won NCAA’s last year.
Given the level of the times and the specific event that we speak of, this men’s 50 free should take all of the headlines in finals, with those two taking center stage.
Auburn, meanwhile, regained some faith in their sprint group, which coming in weren’t seeded very highly. They’ll have two sophomores in the A-Final: Kyle Darmody (19.37 – 3rd qualifier) and Michael Duderstadt (19.63 – 7th qualifier).
In between them are Georgia’s breakout star of the 2014-2015 season Michael Trice and Texas A&M’s Cory Bolleter (both in 19.48’s); and Tennessee’s Troy Tillman in 19.60. All three of those swimmers improved from lesser finals at last year’s SEC Championship meet.
Alabama’s Alex Gray rounds out the A-Final with a 19.69; his teammates Luke Kaliszak (19.74) and Brett Walsh (19.82) are the top two qualifiers in the B-Final, giving Alabama four of the top 10 spots in this 50 free prelim.
Among the disappointing swims was a slide from Missouri’s Matt Magritier, who came in seeded at 19.41 but only swam 19.88 in prelims.
Women’s 50 Free – Prelims
While the Georgia women still did enough to be in good shape for finals, with two swimmers in the top eight of the women’s 50 free prelims, defending NCAA Champion Olivia Smoliga slipped out of the A-Final with a 9th-place 22.36 in the morning heats. That will give her a different perspective from last year, when she was the third seed coming out of prelims.
With her out, and with A&M’s Lili Ibanez sliding to the C-Final, four of the six returning swimmers from last year’s A-Final will be back in this year’s race, led by Smoliga’s teammate Chantal van Landeghem in 21.87. She will be flanked in finals by Florida’s Natalie Hinds and Texas A&M’s Beryl Gastaldello – who is coming off of a phenomenal relay split from Tuesday night. Hinds was a 21.90 in the morning and Gastaldello was a 21.95 – flirting with the Texas A&M school record.
Georgia’s second finalist is Maddie Locus, who is the 4th qualifer in 22.09, followed by Tennessee’s Faith Johnson (22.13) and Harper Bruens (22.20). Auburn’s Allyx Purcell tied with Bruens for 6th, with a second Aggie, Sammie Bosma, capping off the top 8.