2019 SEC Championships: Day 2 Prelims Live Recap

2019 SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Individual events begin this morning at the SEC Championships, with heats of the 500 free, 200 IM and 50 free for both men and women.

The Tennessee men and Florida women lead narrowly after last night’s relay and diving events, but 11 more events tonight should add much more definition to the point standings.

In the women’s 500, Georgia’s Courtney Harnish is the top seed, though Kentucky’s Geena Freriks is the defending champion. For the men, South Carolina’s Fynn Minuth set the meet record last year, but Florida’s Khader Baqlah leads seeds into the heats. Texas A&M’s Sydney Pickrem looks to defend her SEC title in the 200 IM, while Missouri’s breakout backstroke star Nick Alexander is the top seed for the men in a 200 IM event in which 7 of the top 8 from last year are no longer in the conference. In the 50 free, it’s Tennessee’s Erika Brown looking to defend her title and challenge SEC and even American, NCAA and U.S. Open records. Alabama’s Robert Howard is the top seed for the men.

Keep refreshing this page for live, event-by-event updates of all the action from Georgia.

Women’s 500 Free – Prelims

Top 8 qualifiers:

  1. Braswell (FL) – 4:38.13
  2. Freriks (KY) – 4:39.30
  3. Rasmus (A&M) – 4:39.60
  4. Harnish (UGA) – 4:40.23
  5. Palsha (ARK) – 4:40.54
  6. Yelle (A&M) – 4:40.57
  7. Ault (FL) – 4:40.84
  8. Nunan (TN) – 4:41.29

Florida has been led all year by its freshman class, and SECs started no different. NCAA rookie Leah Braswell paced heats of the 500 free, going 4:38.13 for the top spot into tonight’s final. Braswell was a lifetime-best 4:37.8 at mid-season, and so likely has a bit more time to drop tonight.

Defending champ Geena Freriks of Kentucky sits second in 4:39.30. She went 4:37.2 last year to top Georgia then-freshman Courtney Harnish for the title. Harnish qualified fourth this morning (4:40.23) and will swim in the lane right next to Freriks tonight. Meanwhile last year’s third-placer, Claire Rasmus of Texas A&M, is third heading into tonight in 4:39.60.

Things really tightened up in the middle of the top 8, with spots four through seven separated by just over half a second. It’ll be a big event for the Aggie women with 2 A finalists. Florida also has two in the top 8.

Men’s 500 Free – Prelims

Top 8 qualifiers:

  1. Higgins (UGA) – 4:12.36
  2. Minuth (SC) – 4:15.27
  3. Davila (SC) – 4:16.04
  4. Freeman (FL) – 4:16.25
  5. Theall (A&M) – 4:16.79
  6. Baqlah (FL) – 4:17.07
  7. Miller (UGA) – 4:17.12
  8. Dannhauser (AUB) – 4:17.16

Georgia had a handful of big drops from seed, including junior Walker Higginswho dropped from 4:15 to 4:12.36 for the top qualifying spot. Higgins was 4:14.43 back in 2017 as a freshman, but only went 4:17 at this meet last year. His swim this morning should put him well under the NCAA invite cut. He’ll be joined by 7th-place Kevin Miller, another UGA junior.

South Carolina has been powered by its distance group recently, and that trend continued even with distance coach Mark Bernardino making the jump to NC State. South Carolina took second and third with Fynn Minuth (4:15.27) and Rafael Davila (4:16.04).

Florida put two into the A final, with freshman Trey Freeman leading the way in 4:16.25. Freeman has been as fast as 4:15.0 earlier in this career, so keep an eye on him tonight. Khader Baqlah is also into the A final in 4:17.07.

The 500 was a relatively young event for the conference – four freshman put up big drops from seed to take 9th through 12th: Missouri duo Jack Dubois (4:22 to 4:17) and Jack Dahlgren (4:19 to 4:17) along with Florida’s Robert Finke (4:20 to 4:17) and Georgia’s Andrew Abruzzo (4:19 to 4:17).

Swim-off Update: in a brutal battle, Kentucky’s Hank Siefert and Georgia’s Clayton Forde swam-off for the 16th spot. In their second grueling 500 frees of the day, Forde out-touched Siefert 4:21.06 to 4:21.07 to take the final spot in the B final. Both will swim their third 500s tonight, Forde in the B heat and Siefert in the C.

Women’s 200 IM – Prelims

Top 8 qualifiers:

  1. Pickrem (A&M) / Small (TN) – 1:53.01
  2. Barksdale (SC) – 1:53.73
  3. Pearl (FL) – 1:55.18
  4. Nero (AUB) – 1:55.54
  5. Cieplucha (TN) – 1:55.74
  6. DeBever (A&M) – 1:55.76
  7. Gonzalez-Hermosillo (A&M) – 1:55.82

In what should set up a fun showdown tonight, we have a tie atop the women’s 200 IM. Defending champ Sydney Pickrem of Texas A&M went 1:53.01, but will be joined in the middle lanes by Tennessee’s Meghan SmallPickrem is a senior who went 1:52.69 at this meet last year. But Small, a junior and one of the top recruits in the nation a few years back, was 1:53.05 last year and is primed to make a run at the title tonight.

Last year’s runner-up, Kentucky junior Asia Seidt was a prelims casualty this morning, going 1:56.53 for 10th place and missing the championship final.

South Carolina’s Emma Barksdale is third, not far back at 1:53.73. She took fourth last year. Florida freshman Vanessa Pearl, arguably the top IMer in her class, went 1:55.18 for fourth this morning.

Auburn gets their first women’s A finalist under new head coach Gary Taylor, as Bailey Nero went 1:55.54. This is a new event from last year for Nero; she swam the 100 fly, 200 fly and 200 back last season at SECs.

In addition to Pickrem, A&M will have two other A finalists: McKenna DeBever and Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo. Tennessee will have Small and Tess Cieplucha.

Men’s 200 IM – Prelims

Top 8 qualifiers:

  1. Smith (FL) – 1:42.94
  2. Casas (A&M) – 1:43.21
  3. Alexander (MIZZ) – 1:43.81
  4. Walton (MIZZ) – 1:43.83
  5. Kovac (MIZZ) – 1:44.01
  6. Acevedo (UGA) – 1:44.04
  7. Sanders (FL) – 1:44.23
  8. Brown (KY) – 1:44.84

The SEC is proving to be a really young conference on the men’s side – and that’s reflected nowhere better than the 200 IM, where the top two qualifiers are freshmen. Florida’s Kieran Smithcoming off a big 800 free relay split last night, went 1:42.94 for the top spot, taking a full second off his lifetime-best. That’s a great sign for Smith, who is also an elite 400 IMer and 200 backstroker and should swim two more individual events this week.

Shaine Casas of Texas A&M is the two-seed. He went 1:43.21. Casas blasted a career-best 1:43.06 at A&M’s mid-season meet, and should have the speed to challenge the more rangy Smith for the win tonight.

Top incoming seed Nick Alexander of Missouri stuck around in the third spot, going 1:43.81. His season-best (1:43.04) should also put him in the title hunt tonight. His Missouri men have been surprisingly strong all season, and they loaded up the A final of this 200 IM to keep themselves atop our running points projections. Senior Alex Walton is fourth (1:43.83) and freshman Danny Kovac fifth (1:44.01) as Mizzou leads all programs with 3 A finalists in this event.

Georgia got junior Javier Acevedo into the A heat. Acevedo is coming off an injury-riddled regular season, but looked solid at 1:44.04 this morning. He was the SEC 100 back champ last year, but swam the 50 free instead of the 200 IM a year ago.

Florida will also put Grant Sanders into the A final, and Kentucky got Glen Brown in in eighth place.

Women’s 50 Free – Prelims

Top 8 qualifiers:

  1. Brown (TN) – 21.33
  2. Hopkin (ARK) – 21.70
  3. Fisch (AUB) – 21.78
  4. Banic (TN) / Ochitwa (MIZZ) – 21.90
  5. Thompson (MIZZ) – 22.24
  6. Hynes (MIZZ) – 22.26
  7. Meynen (AUB) / Knight (LSU) – 22.33

Tennessee’s Erika Brown broke the first record of the day, going 21.33 to shatter the pool record (21.54 by Olivia Smoliga) and break the SEC meet record (21.34 by Ariana Vanderpool-Wallace). That’s Brown’s career-best by .06 seconds, topping her time from SECs last year.

She’ll be chased tonight by Arkansas junior standout Anna Hopkinwho was 21.70. Auburn’s Claire Fisch went 21.78. All three of those women are coming off of stellar relay splits last night: 20.9 for Brown, 21.0 for Hopkin and 21.1 for Fisch.

There were two ties in the top 8, one of which will require a swim-off. Tennessee’s Maddy Banic and Missouri’s Ann Ochitwa were both 21.90 and tied for fourth. Meanwhile Auburn’s Julie Meynen and LSU’s Haylee Knight will swim-off for eighth place after the session. Both went 22.33.

Missouri finished its second-straight event with three A finalists. Ochitwa will be joined by Sarah Thompson and Haley Hynes in the championship heat tonight. Georgia, meanwhile, just missed the cut with Veronica Burchill and Gabrielle Fa’amausili tying for 10th in 22.37.

Swim-off update: Meynen went 22.08 to top Knight (22.26) for the final spot in the championship heat tonight. Both were significantly faster than their heats swims.

Men’s 50 Free – Prelims

Top 8 qualifiers:

  1. Howard (AL) – 18.80
  2. Grassi (AUB) – 19.23
  3. Decoursey (TN) – 19.25
  4. Schreuders (MIZZ) – 19.31
  5. Mankus (MIZZ) – 19.40
  6. DiSette (AL) – 19.43
  7. Thibert (A&M) – 19.46
  8. Wetzlar (KY) / Koster (A&M) – 19.49

Alabama’s Robert Howard blew out the field this morning in the 50 free, going 18.80. That’s two full tenths faster than anyone went in finals last year – with Caeleb Dressel swimming the 200 IM instead, the SEC title went to Zach Apple in 19.08. Howard was third last year, but a huge swim this morning puts him not only in the SEC title driver’s seat, but ranks him #2 in the NCAA this season as just the second man to break 19 seconds.

Auburn’s Santiago Grassi had a huge swim, dropping to 19.23 after going just 19.67 at this meet last year. Grassi’s incoming seed this year wasn’t even under 20 seconds. (Grassi is training for new Auburn sprint coach Gideon Louw, who helped Bowe Becker come out of nowhere to become one of the nation’s top 50 freestylers at Minnesota last year).

While freshman have had a big impact on the men’s meet so far, the 50 free field is a much more veteran-centric group. Of the 9 swimmers in contention for the A final, four are seniors and four are juniors.

Tennessee’s Kyle Decoursey went 19.25 for the third spot, a tick behind Grassi. And Missouri took the next two spots with Mikel Schreuders (19.31) and Luke Mankus (19.40).

Howard will be joined by Sam DiSette for Alabama in the final, and Texas A&M put Mike Thibert into the field. His teammate Adam Koster should swim-off with Kentucky’s Peter Wetzlar for 8th place.

Alabama’s Zane Waddell, who last night put up the second-fastest 50 back in history, added two tenths to his seed and missed the A final, going 19.50 for 10th. That B final could be very fast, with Florida freshman Will Davis sitting 11th in 19.53 after his standout 18.4 split on a relay last night.

Also of note: Tennessee breaststroker Michael Houlie is listed in 50 free results at 24.14. That seems like a potential 50 breast time from Houlie, one of the more exciting sprint breaststroke prospects in the country, who split a 23.4 on the medley relay last night.

Swim-off update: Koster topped Wetzlar, giving A&M a second A finalist tonight. Koster was 19.47 and Wetzlar 19.90.

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Ragnar

Alright now, post dressel 50 era. Over under 18.9 to win the 50 at SEC, and over under 18.5 at NCAAs? Under at SECs, over at NCAAs. Go!

Swammer

My prediction for SEC is it takes 18.8 to win anything under 18.85 is lights out, it’s a stacked field so who knows, and barely over 18.5 at NCAAs. This will be the best 50 free field at NCAAs without Dressel and Held ever. Fastest returner is Becker, and he was 18.69, but there are a few guys that could be 18.6 at least.

BSD

I say over and over

A&M

under at SEC barely under at NCAA

I’d say under SEC and barely over at NCAA.

JP input is too short

Under on both. I don’t think Howard adds tonight, and Tate Jackson has been on fire for a year now, so I think he goes under 18.5 at NCAAs.

Thatguy

Anyone know why he went 20.8 and 44.8 after that stellar performance in the 50 and 100?

Chris

His publushed reaction time in the 50 was like 0.9 or something weird, so I’m wondering if maybe he slipped off the block. Went fast on relays. I expect him in that 18.6-18.7 range and sub-41 at NCAAs.

Pvdh

I think Becker or Hoffer could put down a 18.5-18.6 at NCAAs to win

VFL

Small and Pickrem tie for fastest time in the country 1:53.01. Should be a fun race tonight. Popov did two pullouts this morning in the IM for anyone interested.

wowok

it was a hell of a race already this morning

Swammer

Probably did it to save energy.

Bo Swims

Pickrem FTW tonight.

paloozas

popov split 31 on both back and breast in her IM if anyone wants to know #justbreaststrokerthings

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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