2016 Men’s SEC Championship Fan Guide: Florida Chasing Four-Peat

2016 Men’s SEC Championships

  • Tuesday, February 16 – Saturday, February 20
  • Mizzou Aquatic Center, Columbia, MO (Central Time Zone)
  • Prelims 10AM / Finals 6PM (Wed-Sat), Tuesday Times Finals 5:30PM
  • Defending Champion: Florida (3x) (results)
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheet
  • Live results
  • Live Video (if available)

The first of the major Division I conferences to kick off its championship meet is the SEC, which opens up Tuesday in Columbia, Missouri, and there should be no shortage of fireworks to mark the beginning of college swimming’s post-season.

The Florida Gators are looking for a third straight title in what’s been an odd season for coach Gregg Troy‘s crew. The Gators currently have just one loss in short course competition (to defending NCAA champs Texas), but only one win in a slate of long course duals. Florida dropped meets to Texas, Georgia and Auburn in long course meters, and the big question is how much impact the Olympic-distance format had on those competitions.

The good news for Florida, though, is that it wouldn’t be surprising for a Troy-led team to wear down in-season only to explode with some rest at SECs. The Gators have a true superstar in NCAA 50 free champ Caeleb Dressel and added Virginia Tech transfer Jan Switkowski, who has gelled with the Gator program immediately.

They’ll have their hands full, though, with a young Georgia squad that can battle the defending champs in their own wheelhouse – the middle-distances and IM races. Georgia lost American record-holder Chase Kalisz to an Olympic redshirt, but still have Gunnar Bentz, Jay Litherland and defending SEC 200 IM champ Ty Stewart in the IMs.

The big complication comes with the teams that finished 3rd through 5th last year, as all three return most of their top swimmers. Alabama graduated just one point from last year’s SEC team, and Auburn and Tennessee didn’t lose many scorers, either. Depth will likely be a concern with all three in terms of catching the loaded top two programs, but there’s enough talent spread around the SEC to make this season’s meet an entertaining one at all levels of teh final standings.

Schedule

The SEC is the only major conference to use the 5-day meet format, which spreads events out and should prevent too many swimmers from running into tough doubles. The event lineup is listed below:

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

AlabamaKristian Gkolomeev (junior sprinter), Connor Oslin (junior backstroker), Luke Kaliszak (sophomore backstroker/freestyler), Chris Reid (sophomore backstroker) – The Crimson Tide is extremely strong through the backstroke and freestyle events and should rack up some monster relay points. If more depth develops at taper time, this team goes from good to scary.

AuburnMichael Duderstadt (junior breaststroker), Peter Holoda (sophomore freestyler/butterflyer), Joe Patching (junior backstroker), Luis Carlos Martinez (sophomore butterflyer/freestyler) – Sprints look great in all four strokes. There’s still a missing distance component, but Auburn has the potential to crush things over the short-distance events.

FloridaCaeleb Dressel (sophomore sprinter), Mitch D’Arrigo (junior freestyler), Pawel Werner (senior freestyler), Mark Szaranek (sophomore IMer/flyer), Jan Switkowski (sophomore freestyler/IMer) – Dressel is the fastest man in the NCAA, providing a much-needed sprint component to a team built around dominant IMers and middle-distance swimmers.

Georgia – Tynan Stewart (senior IMer/flyer), Matias Koski (senior freestyler), Taylor Dale (junior flyer/backstroker), Gunnar Bentz (sophomore IMer/breaststroker), Pace Clark (junior backstroker/flyer) – Like Florida, Georgia is loaded in the IMs, and Michael Trice is developing into the pure sprinter the team needs. They’ll still be hard-pressed for game-changing relay splits, but this is a deep and tough lineup individually.

Kentucky – Brandon Flynn (junior IMer), Andrew Aviotti (junior distance freestyler), Kyle Higgins (junior flyer), Levi Lindsey (sophomore diver) – Higgins and Lindsey were the team’s only A finalists last year, but Flynn has a chance to join them. He holds the SEC’s 6th-fastest 400 IM time.

LSU – Logan Rysemus (junior butterflyer/IMer), Brandon Goldman (junior backstroker/IMer), Alex Linge (senior butterflyer), Andrew Suchla (junior diver) – The Tigers have two butterflyers in striking distance of an A final spot even after graduating Frank Greef, who was third last year. Rysemus is currently ranked 5th in the SEC and Linge 12th.

Missouri – Michael Chadwick (junior freestyler), Fabian Schwingenschlogl (junior breaststroker), Andrew Sansoucie (junior flyer/freestyler), Eddie Mapel (junior breaststroker/IMer) – Chadwick could challenge some of the SEC’s big guns for conference sprint titles, and Western Kentucky transfer Schwingenschlogl is a huge get to fill the shoes of departed All-American Sam Tierney.

South Carolina – Akaram Mahmoud (sophomore distance freestyler), Cody Bekemeyer (freshman distance freestyler), Nils Wich-Glasen (sophomore breaststroker) – A definite team on the rise, South Carolina moved from dead last in 2014 to 7th last year, and could jump higher in 2016. They’ve got great talent through the distance freestyle events, especially.

Tennessee – Sean Lehane (senior backstroker), Evan Pinion (sophomore distance freestyler), David Heron (sophomore distance freestyler), Liam Stone (sophomore diver) – Some great young pieces on this Vols squad, including SEC 500/1650 leader Pinion. Defending conference 200 back champ Lehane adds some key veteran leadership.

Texas A&M – Brock Bonetti (sophomore backstroker), Mauro Castillo Luna (sophomore breaststroker), Tyler Henschel (sophomore diver) – The makings of a great young medley relay in Bonetti and Castillo, but depth will need to develop for the Aggies to move up in the tough SEC.

Showdowns

50 Free/100 Free – The SEC has long been known across sports as a conference of speed, and 2016 swimming is no exception. The conference currently boasts four of the top five 50 freestylers in the NCAA ranks along with two previous NCAA champs: Florida’s Caeleb Dressel and Alabama’s Kristian GkolomeevThe wild card is Missouri’s Michael Chadwick, who has blown up over the past year and sits second in the nation in the 50 while leading the 100. Auburn should have a few guys in the hunt, likely Peter Holoda and Kyle Darmody, and even Georgia is starting to get some elite sprintint speed out of Michael Trice.

100 Backstroke – What’s exciting about this event is how many different teams have a contender. Defending conference champ Connor Oslin is from Alabama. His teammate Luke Kaliszak is tied with Georgia’s Taylor Dale for the SEC lead heading into the postseason. Florida’s got Jack Blyzinskyj and Auburn Joe Patching. Tennessee’s Sean Lehane and Missouri’s Carter Griffin are both better at the 200, but could still be factors in the shorter distance. And even Texas A&M (Brock Bonetti) and LSU (Logan Rysemus) have legitimate A final threats on their rosters.

1650 Free – The SEC mile last season was a showdown between Georgia’s Matias Koski and Florida’s Mitch D’Arrigo, both of whom return. Koski has to be the favorite after winning the 1650 at both SECs and NCAAs last year. But the big question is what we’ll see form Tennessee’s Evan Pinion, who leads the conference ranks this year and sits #4 in the entire nation. Pinion had a similar midseason explosion last year and entered the postseason leading the NCAA, but had a disastrous SEC meet that saw him fall to just 10th place. The then-freshman was unable to match his midseason time through the entire 2015 postseason, but if he can avoid a similar spring semester slump this year, he’ll be right out with the leaders in the SEC and the nation. Also keep an eye on South Carolina’s Akara Mahmoud, who was 6th at NCAAs last year.

200 Free Relay – The closest event at last year’s meet, this relay combines all the sprint prowess of the SEC into an event that holds special prestige for the sprint-oriented conference. Alabama touched out Auburn for the 2015 title by just .04 seconds, and both relays return all four legs. Auburn is a bit deeper, but Alabama has Kristian Gkolomeevwho’s done some crazy things on relays in his two NCAA seasons. Florida isn’t really deep at all, but Caeleb Dressel could realistically challenge for the second 17-second split in history. And the sneaky-good team is Missouri, led by Michael Chadwick and swimming in their home pool.

Selections

Florida is always difficult to judge before they rest, and it’s even more difficult in a season that saw them focus so much on long course meters in preparation for the Summer Olympics. But it’s hard to bet against this team after three consecutive SEC titles – at this point, the team’s senior class has yet to lose a conference championship.

Caeleb Dressel going 18.7 midseason is huge. He should singlehandedly put the Gator relays into contention, and could realistically win three individual events. His sprint prowess combined with the mid-distance versatility of the rest of the lineup makes Florida a very dangerous team. That’s not to say Florida doesn’t have its holes – breaststroke being the biggest one – but they’re still set up very well in 2016.

Georgia might actually be deeper than Florida through the IMs and non-free strokes, but they suffer from the same weakness in breaststroke, and also lack a Dressel-calibur sprinter to boost their relays. Maybe the biggest factor suggesting a repeat Florida win is that the Bulldogs lost Chase Kalisz to a redshirt while the Gators gained Jan Switkowksi in a transfer situation.

Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee appear to be the next major tier of programs. ‘Bama still has depth issues, but the fact that they return all but one of their 911.5 points from 2015 gives them the tentative nod over the competition. Auburn is well-rounded with some great-looking relays, but their fate depends a lot on junior sprinter Kyle Darmody, who has been relatively quiet this year but typically comes up big in the post-season.

Tennessee is harder to judge – they didn’t really rest up for any mid-season relays, and that leaves them ranked near the bottom of the conference in the all-important relay races. The Vols will rise from there, no doubt, but it’s hard to say how much. They’ll struggle to replace their fly and free legs on the medleys and need some big drops to compete with the SEC’s big dogs in the sprint freestyles.

Mizzou is the definite wild card, hosting the conference meet for the first time since joining the SEC in 2012. How much will home pool advantage help the Tigers? Can the fast-rising Michael Chadwick unseat Dressel and Kristian Gkolomeev for the title of top SEC sprinter? The addition of breaststroker Fabian Schwingenschlogl means Missouri won’t feel the full sting of graduating Sam Tierney. The Tigers will be better this year than last (they currently have the highest average relay rank in the conference), but they’d need a really great effort to challenge the deeper Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee teams.

Caught in a similar situation is South Carolina. There’s notable improvement across the roster, and the team is undoubtedly rising. But that might not be reflected in the SEC standings until the Gamecocks develop enough depth to rival the next tier of teams.

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Alabama
  4. Auburn
  5. Tennessee
  6. Missouri
  7. South Carolina
  8. LSU
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Kentucky

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SamH

Will there be prelims (time trials) tuesday morning? I can hardly contain my excitement for this meet!

Flyin'

Yes

Ok

I wouldn’t call Jan a freestyler/IMer since he is the world’s bronze medalist at the 200 fly, and could challenge Schooling and Conger incthat event for NCAAs.

bobo gigi

What’s the use of resting for that meet if you’re already qualified for NCAA championships?

SEC FAN

That is often why most of the top swimmers at this meet aren’t fully rested. Bauerle will surely be holding back on many of his athletes for NCAAs

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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