2018 SEC Women’s Champs Fan Guide: Aggies Targeting 3rd-Straight Title

2018 SEC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • Wednesday, February 14 – Sunday, February 18, 2018
  • College Station, TX – Rec Center Natatorium
  • Prelims/Finals: 10 AM/6 PM Wed-Sat, 10/4:20PM Tues (Central Time)
  • Defending Champion: Texas A&M (2x) [results]
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results (when the meet begins)
  • Video
  • Championship Central

The Texas A&M Aggies are coming off of two straight wins at SECs, and powered by an insanely deep IM/breast group along with a sizable freestyle group, they look very good to repeat for what could be their third straight SEC title this month.

Beryl Gastaldello is the sprinter who ties it all together for the Aggies, an elite presence in sprint free, back or fly. As far as sprint free goes, the Aggies aren’t quite stacked in the 50, but there is plenty of 100 and 200 free speed with Claire RasmusKristin MaloneKatie Portz and Golf Sapianchai. Rasmus is the key name for the mid-distance group– while she can sprint well, her 200-500 combination is killer. She ranks 2nd in the SEC in the 500 free and 3rd in the 200 free, and will contend for titles in both races at SECs. The distance races are headed by freshmen Haley Yelle and Joy Field, and Field in particular has been off of her high school bests; perhaps her best is yet to come.

In the strokes, the breaststroke is the clear strength for the Aggies. They are ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the 100, led by Jorie Caneta, and 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th in the 200, led by Sydney Pickrem and Bethany Galat. Freshman Anna Belousova and senior Esther Gonzalez Medina round out the star-quality breast group, which will bring in loads of points at SECs. Backstroke is thinner, with Gastaldello likely subbing in for the 200 medley relay on the lead off, though Lisa Bratton is a worthy leader for the Aggies, and a contender for the 200 back SEC title.

Jing Wen QuahTaylor Pike, and Sapianchai bolster the fly group, the first two especially in the 200. And, of course, Pickrem, Galat, and Bratton head the IM group, which is almost on par with the deadliness of their breaststroke group.

Georgia and Tennessee are the other heavy hitters in the conference, in terms of having big-time scorers all over their rosters.

UGA will have to deal with losing Olivia Smoliga and Chantal van Landeghem, two of the best sprinters in NCAA history, but a strong freshman class paired with an already talented roster will push them to find new ways to score. Megan Kingsley and Chelsie Britt are two butterfly forces to be reckoned with, along with Veronica Burchill, who has been their go-to freestyle sprinter as well. Kylie Stewart keeps the Bulldogs relevant in backstroke, but that, as well as their breaststroke group, is fragile and thin. On the other hand, Georgia looks fantastic in freestyle. The #1 incoming freshman in her class, Courtney Harnish is the fastest 500 freestyler in the conference this year, and is 2nd in the 200 free only to her teammate Meaghan Raab. The Bulldogs will not have an easy time fending off the Volunteers this year, but they always find a way to make things come together for championship season.

The Vols have enjoyed the resurgence of sprinter Erika Brown, who has looked unstoppable all year. Brown is the title favorite in the 50 free and 100 fly, and could snag the 100 free title in a packed field. USC transfer Stanzi Moseley is looking stronger than last year, giving Tennessee another top sprinter to load up relays with. Their breaststroke group is right on pace with Kentucky for the 2nd-best in the conference, with Katie Armitage already under a minute in the 100 and freshman Nikol Popov with more to drop to match her high school prowess, along with Slovenian import Tjasa Pintar looking good all year. Their IMers, led by Meghan SmallTess Cieplucha, and freshman Alexis Yager are solid, and if the freshman class can show up fast, the Vols could unseat Georgia. Maddy Banic, if she’s in championship shape, could seal the deal for the Vols and make it all the more favorable for Tennessee over UGA.

Kentucky will feature backstrokers Ali Galyer and Asia Seidt, while Seidt will push for SEC titles in any and all of the events she swims individually. Freshman Bailey Bonnett has excelled wildly under Lars Jorgensen and staff, giving the Wildcats a great medley breaststroke piece and making their breaststroke group that much more potent. Mizzou is a strong top 5 team, too, with seasoned backstroker Hannah Stevens, utility player Sharli Brady, and sprint transfer Annie Ochitwa leading the way.

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

AlabamaFlora Molnar (freshman sprinter), Mia Nonnenberg (senior distance freestyler/IMer), Leonie Kullman (freshman mid-distance freestyler), Bailey Scott (senior sprinter)- Freshman Molnar brings a lot of speed to the table, and pairs well with Scott. Nonnenberg hasn’t impressed yet this year, but she has the potential to bring in a lot of points, especially in the 400 IM and mile.

ArkansasPeyton Palsha (freshman distance freestyler), Ayumi Macias (sophomore distance freestyler), Chloe Hannam (senior backstroker), Chelsea Tatlow (senior backstroker/IMer)- A nice distance duo with Palsha and Macias. Tatlow leads the team in multiple events, and Hannam is 12th in the conference in the 200 back.

AuburnJulie Meynen (sophomore sprinter), Aly Tetzloff (junior freestyler/flyer), Haley Black (senior butterflier), Erin Falconer (junior freestyler/backstroker)- Meynen and Tetzloff are both fantastic sprinters, and Falconer could A final in multiple events.

FloridaKelly Fertel (sophomore IMer), Savanna Faulconer (sophomore distance freestyler/IMer), Sydney Sell (junior backstroker), Amelia Maughan (sophomore freestyler/backstroker), Emma Ball (sophomore backstroker) – Faulconer and Fertel are great IMers, and Sell is near the top of the conference in the 200 back. Maughan leads the sprint freestylers, while Ball is a top sprint backstroker who continues to improve in her sophomore season.

Georgia– Courtney Harnish (freshman freestyler), Meaghan Raab (senior freestyler), Veronia Burchill (sophomore sprinter), Kylie Stewart (senior backstroker), Megan Kingsley (senior butterflyer), Chelsie Britt (senior butterflier)- The Bulldogs have plenty of stars, with an abundance of freestyle and butterfly strength. If freshman mid-season addition Gabi Fa’amausili can translate her LCM speed to the small pool, Georgia will have another star in its midst at SECs.

KentuckyAli Galyer (sophomore backstroker/freestyler) Bridgette Alexander (senior backstroker), Geena Freriks (junior freestyler), Bailey Bonnett (freshman breaststroker), Asia Seidt (sophomore everything)- Kentucky is on the rise, led by jack-of-all-trades sophomore Asia Seidt. UK is very much so still Backstroke U, as Seidt, Galyer, and Alexander could sweep the 200 back at SECs and it wouldn’t be surprising. Bonnett, in her debut season, is at the head of a very strong breaststroke group.

LSU– Summer Spradley (junior breaststroker), Haylee Knight (junior sprinter), Lizzie Cui (junior diver)- LSU graduated a big senior class after last season, so it’s rebuilding mode in Baton Rouge. Cui is a top diver, and Knight returns after a 50 free A final appearance at last year’s SECs.

Missouri– Hannah Stevens (senior backstroker), Annie Ochitwa (junior sprinter), Kylie Dahlgren (junior IMer), Hayley Hynes (sophomore sprinter), Sharli Brady (senior everything)- Ochitwa’s arrival does huge things for Mizzou. Brady has evolved into a mid-distance stalwart, and Stevens is already at the top of the nation’s backstrokers. There’s no standout breaststroker, but the versatile Hynes can at least pull off a solid 200 medley relay split.

South Carolina– Kersten Dirrane (senior breaststroker), Emma Barksdale (junior IMer) – Barksdale broke out as one of the best IMers in the country over the summer, and she’ll be a big name for the Gamecocks.

Tennessee– Erika Brown (sophomore sprinter), Meghan Small (sophomore everything), Maddy Banic (junior sprinter), Stanzi Moseley (sophomore freestyler), Tess Cieplucha (sophomore IMer)- The sophomores are on fire on this Tennessee team. Banic didn’t swim in dual meets this season until January. She is a star, though, and the fact she’s been under 23 in dual meets already suggests she’ll be able to put up some solid sprint times at SECs.

Texas A&M- Beryl Gastaldello (senior sprint free/back/fly), Jorie Caneta (senior breaststroker), Bethany Galat (senior breaststroker/IMer), Sydney Pickrem (junior breaststroker/IMer), Claire Rasmus (freestyler)- All five of these women could find themselves with at least one individual SEC title next week.

Vanderbilt– Breanna Sapienza (senior sprinter)- Vanderbilt will be hard-pressed to score many individuals at SECs. Sapienza has a shot in the 100 fly, though, and she leads the Commodores in that event as well as the 50 free and 100 free.

SHOWDOWNS

200 BACKSTROKE

Kentucky’s backstroke trio of Asia SeidtBridgette Alexander, and Ali Galyer will clash with Texas A&M’s Lisa Bratton, Mizzou’s Hannah Stevens and Georgia’s Kylie Stewart in an instant classic. All of those women were in the A final last year save for Stewart, who qualified for the B final after prelims but scratched finals. Seidt is the defending SEC champion, and broke 1:50 at NCAAs as a freshman last year to claim third, the highest SEC finisher at the meet.

At NCAAs, Bratton, Stevens, Stewart and Alexander all scored in the B final. There are six names here, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if any one of them snagged the SEC title. Seidt, the defending champion, and Bratton, the 2017-18 in-season leader, have the hot hands, though.

200 IM

Meghan Small of Tennessee won this race last year as a freshman, getting out ahead by a full second over 2nd place Sydney Pickrem of Texas A&M at the 100 mark and holding off a late charge to get to the wall in 1:53.31 to Pickrem’s 1:53.64. Pickrem leads the conference this year with a 1:53.38, ahead of Asia Seidt‘s 1:53.84.

Seidt, whose 27.49 back split at NCAAs last year was the fastest in the field, faster even than Kathleen Baker’s 27.75, is looking fantastic this year. Never having broken 1:55 before, she dropped a 1:53.84 at the Ohio State Invite in November. After dropping over a full second from her high school best last year as a freshman, Seidt is proving that she has much more to go. With the momentum she has, it seems she is the slight favorite in a field of very talented IMers.

Pickrem’s teammate Bethany Galat was 3rd last year at SECs here, and has been 3rd in the conference this season (1:55.16) just ahead of another Aggie, Lisa Bratton (1:55.20). Meanwhile, UGA’s Meaghan Raab (1:55.37) and Mizzou’s Sharli Brady (1:55.55) have both been under 1:56 this season, and South Carolina’s Emma Barksdale can’t be forgotten after an impressive 2:13 in long course this summer.

100 FREE

The UGA sprinters Smoliga and van Landegehem are gone from the college scene, but a serious battle is brewing between several top sprinters, including a newcomer by way of transfer.

The top returners from last year’s A final are UGA sophomore Veronica Burchill, A&M senior Beryl Gastaldello, and Auburn sophomore Julie Meynen. All three women have been under 48 seconds this year, but there are two others who are ahead of them right now: Tennessee sophomore Erika Brown and Mizzou junior Annie Ochitwa, a transfer from Arizona.

Brown has had an absolute break-out season, while Ochitwa has excelled in sprint free, breaking 48 for the first time in November.

Gastaldello and Burchill showed up and swam the fastest in the 100 free final last year, and as a senior, Gastaldello will have all the more motivation to finish out strong at SECs.

800 FREE RELAY

This is shaping up to be a grudge match between UGA and A&M, two teams who have been fantastic in this relay the last several years. UGA didn’t graduate any legs from last year’s third place SEC relay, which finished 2.5 seconds behind winner A&M, though they graduated Sarah Gibson, the fastest lead-off leg in the field.

Georgia did pick up Courtney Harnish, who is in contention for the 200 free individual title, though Katie Portz led off the Aggies relay at the Art Adamson Invite in a lifetime best 1:45.43, a huge improvement from her high school best 1:46.84 that she wasn’t able to crack last year as a freshman. Claire Rasmus could be faster than last year after an impressive summer in long course, though Meaghan Raab is a dependable, clutch leg for UGA. Beryl Gastaldello split a 1:46-low at the Art Adamson Invite, but she’s needed on the other four relays at SECs. McKenna Debever has been 1:46.99 this year flat start, and five Aggie women have been 1:47 this year– comparably, besides Harnish and Raab, Veronica Burchill has been 1:44.82, and three more Bulldogs have been 1:46.

Tennessee and last year’s runners-up Kentucky should have strong relays here, in addition to Mizzou, but it’s looking like a battle between the two top teams in the conference.

SELECTIONS

The Aggies are the favorites here, but Georgia will be well above the rest of the conference, too. According to the Swimulator, without diving accounted for, A&M has a 220-point on-paper advantage ahead of Georgia, and it’s another 145 points between Georgia and Missouri.

Kentucky was third last year, and while they look strong again this year, the Tennessee Volunteers picked up a great freshman class, will utilize transfer Stanzi Moseley, and are going to benefit hugely from a surging Erika Brown. They also have phenomenal divers. Kentucky’s lack of sprint depth might sink them to 4th, and potentially 5th if the Missouri Tigers can rally. The Tigers may not even need to have the meet of their lives to beat out UK, as Annie Ochitwa‘s arrival has greatly revamped their sprint group– they still have no go-to breaststroker, though.

Alabama has a lot of momentum spurred on by a great freshman class, and they could go right by the Florida Gators. UF fans, don’t fret, though– if things don’t go well this post-season, there is plenty to be excited about with the incoming class.

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

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11 Comments on "2018 SEC Women’s Champs Fan Guide: Aggies Targeting 3rd-Straight Title"

newest oldest most voted

You have the dates wrong. Meet is Weds – Sun this year.

Has anyone scored the men’s or women’s meet?

SeanSwimmer

Erin Falconer of Auburn will win the 200 free at SEC’s. Heard it here first.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studies sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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