2016 SEC Women’s Championship Fan Guide: Bulldogs Aim For 7 Straight

2015 Women’s SEC Championships

  • Tuesday, February 16- Saturday, February 20
  • Columbia, Missouri- Mizzou Aquatic Center
  • Prelims/Finals: 10 AM/6 PM Wed-Sat, 10/5:30 Tues (Central Time)
  • Defending Champion: Georgia Bulldogs, 6 Consecutive Titles
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results (when the meet begins)
  • Video
  • Championship Central

The SEC Championships will kick off the major conference championship season, beginning February 16th and running through until the 20th.

The Georgia Bulldog women come in as the perennial favorites, looking for their 7th straight title. After California ended Georgia’s two year run as NCAA champions, the Bulldogs look primed to regain their spot as the best women’s team in the NCAA. Fresh off a 9-0 season, their 14th undefeated season in school history, they’ll be raring to go. The team should also be inspired after earning their 100th home victory and then their 100th straight home victory late in the in the season.

Based on the recent history of this meet and the type of season Georgia has had, they should be in complete control. The battle for second should be a fierce once between Texas A&M and Florida. Both programs have loads of top end talent, but not the depth that the Bulldogs boast. Beryl Gastaldello and Bethany Galat lead the charge for Texas A&M, while Florida has plenty weapons of their own including Natalie Hinds and Jessica Thielmann. The Texas A&M Aggies finished over 200 points clear of the Gators last year, finishing 2nd. Florida’s depth swimmers and relays will be relied upon heavily if they want to give the Aggies a fight this year.

Behind those three, it will be a fight. Tennessee, Louisiana State and Auburn were very close last year, and should be again this year. The thing about the SEC that is intriguing is that the teams who lack the depth to contend for a top-3 placing still have top end talent who can compete for individual event wins. Missouri has the top two ranked 100 breaststrokers in the conference this season, Kentucky has the top 200 backstroker and Tennessee boasts the top 100 flyer.

With the five day meet format, swimmers will have fewer crammed finals sessions with the relays being spread out, but such a high intensity meet being spread out over five days will prove to be exhausting, both emotionally and physically. The momentum in this type of meet can sway back and forth between teams, and relays will play a major role in who is able to grab the momentum and run with it. Tennessee pulled out two huge relay wins last year, which gave them the edge over LSU and Auburn who both finished just 18 and 23 points behind them, respectively. There will be multiple team battles that will likely be decided by who is able to step up and perform on the relays.

Schedule

Tuesday:

  • Women’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Medley Relay
  • Men’s 3-meter diving
  • 800 Free Relay

Wednesday:

  • 500 Free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 Free
  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Free Relay

Thursday:

  • 400 IM
  • 100 Fly
  • Women’s 3-meter diving
  • 200 Free

Friday:

  • 200 Fly
  • 100 Back
  • 100 Breast
  • Men’s Platform diving
  • 400 Medley Relay

Saturday:

  • 1650 Free
  • 200 Back
  • 100 Free
  • 200 Breast
  • Women’s Platform diving
  • 400 Free Relay

Stars

AlabamaEmma Saunders (senior backstroker/freestyler), Mia Nonnenberg (sophomore distance freestyler/IMer), Bridget Blood (junior breaststroker), Hannah Musser (sophomore butter flyer)- The Crimson Tide did lose one half of their breaststroke duo in Kaylin Burchell, but still look strong with Nonnenberg, Blood and Saunders primed for at least one A-final appearance each.

ArkansasMaddie Monroe (senior freestyler), Anna Mayfield (senior freestyler/backstroker), Natalie Burnett (junior butter flyer), Chelsea Tatlow (sophomore backstroker/IMer)- Monroe and Mayfield form a dynamic duo in the 200+ freestyle events for the Razorbacks, but they did lose a few key seniors after last season.

AuburnAllyx Purcell (junior sprinter), Ally Tetzloff (freshman freestyler/flyer), Ashley Neidigh (junior distance freestyler), Caroline Baddock (sophomore backstroker), Annie Lazor (senior breaststroker)- The Tigers have strong swimmers in each stroke, and will rely heavily on Allyx Purcell to lead in her individual and relay events, and Annie Lazor to be a top contender in the breaststrokes.

FloridaNatalie Hinds (senior sprinter), Jess Thielmann (senior distance freestyler/IMer), Georgia Mae Hohmann (junior backstroker), Amelia Maughan (sophomore freestyler/backstroker)- Florida will get their last SEC meet out of Hinds and Thielmann, so they should both perform well. Behind them, Florida has many solid swimmers but no surefire stars.

GeorgiaOlivia Smoliga (junior sprint freestyler/backstroker), Hali Flickinger (senior free/back/fly/IM), Brittany Maclean (senior distance freestyler), Kylie Stewart (sophomore backstroker), Megan Kingsley (sophomore butterflyer), Emily Cameron (junior IMer)- Even with the loss of a few top seniors from last year and sprint star Chantal van Landeghem to a redshirt, the Bulldogs remain incredibly deep and look like a good bet to win yet another SEC title and contend for the NCAA title.

KentuckyDanielle Galyer (junior backstroker/IMer), Kendal Casey (junior distance freestyler)- After losing a few of their top swimmers to graduation, Kentucky will be in tough to regain their position from last year. Danielle Galyer will be relied upon heavily in both individual and relay events.

LSUKara Kopcso (junior butterfyer/IMer), Leah Troskot (junior sprint freestyler), Danielle Stirrat (senior freestyler), Cassie Weil (senior diver)- Kara Kopcso will be their star with likely appearances in 3 A finals, and Troskot and Stirrat have emerged as strong 100/200 freestylers which bodes well for the relays.

MissouriHannah Stevens (sophomore backstroker), Katharine Ross (junior breaststroker), Abby Duncan (senior breaststroker), Nadine Laemmler (junior backstroker), Sharli Brady (sophomore butterflyer)- Duncan and Ross from the best 1-2 breaststroke duo in the SEC, and Stevens will contend for a title in the 100 back, with Laemmler and Brady both proving to be legitimate A final threats this year.

South CarolinaKersten Dirrane (sophomore breaststroker), Emma Barksdale (freshman IMer), Meredith Vay (sophomore freestyler)- South Carolina lost a few of their top SEC performers from last year. They are a very inexperienced team looking to gain experience at this meet and see how many they can get to NCAAs.

TennesseeFaith Johnson (senior sprinter), Maddy Tegner (junior freestyler/flyer), Maddie Banic (freshman freestyler/butterflyer), Lauren Driscoll (senior IMer), Kira Toussaint (junior backstroker)- Banic currently ranks first in the SEC in the 100 fly, and her and Johnson lead the charge for a very strong sprint freestyle relay squad.

Texas A&M-Beryl Gastaldello (sophomore sprint free/back/fly), Jorie Caneta (sophomore breaststroker), Bethany Galat (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Sydney Pickrem (freshman IMer), Esther Gonzalez Medina (sophomore breaststroker)- Both Gastaldello and Galat will be threats to win multiple events, and Caneta, Gonzalez Medina and Pickrem all are capable of top-3 finishes.

VanderbiltKara Lucenti (sophomore breaststroker)- Lucenti is the one swimmer on Vanderbilt who could push for a berth in the A finals in the breaststroke events. Other than her, they are relatively weak and will struggle against their much bigger opponents.

Showdowns

100 Free

Based on this years SEC rankings, the 100 freestyle figures to be one of the most hotly contested events of the meet. Defending SEC champion Natalie Hinds of Florida comes in ranked 2nd (47.75) behind Georgia’s Olivia Smoliga (47.69) who has been on fire this season. Along with those two, Texas A&M’s Beryl Gastaldello, Tennessee’s Faith Johnson and Georgia’s Meaghan Raab all figure to be major factors, among others. Look for Hinds and Smoliga to go head-to-head for the win.

100 Breast

Mizzou teammates Katharine Ross and Abby Duncan figure to be the consensus top-2 in the 100 breast as they sit 1-2 in the SEC rankings. Ross leads with a 58.66 this year and Duncan isn’t far behind at 58.83. Despite them being on the same team, this figures to be one of the races of the meet with in-house competition putting like school records and medley relay spots on the line. A 1-2 finish isn’t a slam dunk either, as Texas A&M’s Jorie Caneta and Auburn’s Annie Lazor have both cracked the 1 minute barrier this year as well.

100 Fly

Last year freshman Beryl Gastaldello came in and unseated Kentucky’s Tina Bechtel as the SEC’s top 100 flyer, beating Bechtel in the final for the win. Gastaldello will be a major threat to repeat this season, but she isn’t ranked first in the conference so far this year. That honor currently goes to Tennessee’s Maddie Banic, who sits atop the conference with a time of 51.19 ahead of Gastaldello’s 51.68. Third place finisher last year Natalie Hinds sits third against this year at 52.03, and Sarah Gibson, Hali Flickinger, Kara Kopcso and Kylie Stewart have also all been under 53 this year (though swimmers like Flickinger and Kopcso would likely choose other events over this one).

Selections

The Bulldogs look good to cruise to another SEC title. Despite losing many top contributors from previous years, they appear just too talented, too deep and too strong to really be challenged here. With the likes of Brittany Maclean, Olivia Smoliga and Hali Flickinger all capable of winning multiple individual events, they’ll be tough to dethrone.

Texas A&M was just under 300 points back of Georgia last year, and will be the favorite for the runner-up spot once again. Led by the second-year duo of Beryl Gastaldello and Bethany Galat, the Aggies boast tons of talent, just not the depth that Georgia has.

Florida will rely heavily on seniors Natalie Hinds and Jess Thielmann who will both contribute major points in their final SECs. Florida is lacking a true breaststroker, which really hurts their chances in the medley relays.

After those perennial top-3, Tennessee, Auburn and LSU come in. All three teams come in with plenty of talent, just not the depth required to make a serious run. Despite Georgia and Texas A&M looking like locks for the top-2, any one of these three teams could surprise and challenge Flordia for #3, as the Gators are looking weaker than they have in the past.

After those three it comes to Kentucky, Missouri and Alabama. I give Missouri the edge here with their dynamic breaststroke duo, as both Kentucky and Alabama lost some key members from last years squad, especially Kentucky.

Arkansas, South Carolina and Vanderbilt round out the 12 teams. Arkansas is certainly stronger than their finish last year shows, and should be able to get up with Kentucky, Mizzou and Alabama and challenge them. Both South Carolina and Vanderbilt lost key members of their teams last year and will be hard pressed to get out of the bottom 2 slots.

Our Picks:

1. Georgia

2. Texas A&M

3. Florida

4. Missouri

5. Tennessee

6. LSU

7. Auburn

8. Alabama

9. Kentucky

10. Arkansas

11. South Carolina

12. Vanderbilt

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7 Comments on "2016 SEC Women’s Championship Fan Guide: Bulldogs Aim For 7 Straight"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

I wouldn’t be surprised if Texas A&M wins because they are deeper than UGA.

Not gonna happen

Thanks, A&M mom.

Hey Not Gonna Happen! What do you say now? UGA isn’t very deep and might get beaten by two teams at SECs. Because of the lack of depth. Apologies will be accepted.

You’re kidding right? Georgia can put its 3-4 swimmers in each event into the A and B finals. A&M’s will be relegated largely To the C Final.

no they can’t….have you looked at their roster…top to bottom….their top 10 are good….after that not so much. this is why they have the meet. i want to uga to win. i just think they might be a better ncaa team because their top 10.

I think Auburn sprint girls will pick up some big points as well as relays. I could see Auburn in the top 5.

Ken Hancock

It looks like you really know your stuff, there, HSWIMMER! 🙂

wpDiscuz

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times (SCM): 50 FR - 24.70 100 FR - 53.88 200 FR - 1:56.12 1500 FR - 16:45.97 100 BK - …

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