2020 SEC Championships: Day 2 Prelims Live Recap


The first individual races of the 2020 SEC Champions are set to take place this morning in Auburn, Alabama. Swimmers will compete in prelims of the 500 free, 200 IM, and 50 free. Florida’s Kieran Smith is one of the swimmers to watch today. After winning the 200 IM as a freshman in 2019, he’s choosing a different day 2 event this season. Smith scratched the 200 IM and will instead swim the 500 free. He started the meet off by turning heads with the 4th fastest 200 free ever on the leadoff of Florida’s 800 free relay last night.

Texas A&M’s Mark Theall is seeking his first individual title as the top seed in the 500 free. Teammate Shaine Casas, the 10th fastest man ever in the 200 IM, is chasing the title after just missing the podium last season. Now that 2019 champ Robert Howard has graduated, Zane Waddell will look to keep Bama on top in the men’s 50 free.

The women’s 200 IM features reigning SEC Champion Meghan Small of Tennessee, while teammate Erika Brown headlines the 50 free as she seeks a 3rd-straight title. Georgia’s Courtney Harnish is back to defend her title in the women’s 500 free.


  • SEC Meet Record: Brittany MacLean (Georgia), 2016, 4:33.10
  • NCAA Record: Katie Ledecky (Stanford), 2017, 4:24.06
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 4:40.96
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 4:35.76
  • 2019 Champion: Courtney Harnish (Georgia), 4:35.52

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Emily Hetzer (Auburn), 4:38.56
  2. Amanda Nunan (Tennessee)- 4:38.90
  3. Alexis Preski (Alabama)- 4:39.94
  4. Peyton Palsha (Arkansas)- 4:40.01
  5. Courtney Harnish (Georgia)- 4:40.08
  6. Kensey McMahon (Alabama)- 4:40.20
  7. Ali Galyer (Kentucky)- 4:41.14
  8. Karling Hemstreet (Texas A&M)- 4:41.16

Auburn’s Emily Hetzer clipped her lifetime bet to take the top spot in 4:38.56. Tennessee’s Amanda Nunan had a huge swim, knocking over 2 seconds off her best as she broke 4:40 for the first time in 4:38.90. The only other woman under 4:40 was Bama’s Alexis Preski, who also broke 4:40 for the first time in 4:39.94. The Crimson Tide have 2 in the final as teammate Kensey McMahon qualified 6th in 4:40.20. Arkansas’s Peyton Palsha nearly hit the sub-4:40 mark as she qualified 4th to return to the final in 4:40.01.

Defending champion Courtney Harnish of Georgia cruised to a 4:40.08, qualifying 5th. Florida’s Leah Braswell (4:42.09), the 2019 runner-up, and teammate Taylor Ault (4:42.98), who placed 6th last season, just missed the final in 9th and 10th respectively. The Gators will get big points in the B final, though, as they’ve also got Savanna Faulconer (4:44.67) and Tori Bindi (4:45.02) in the top 16.

Auburn freshman Averee Preble (4:43.54) made a 4-second drop to qualify for the B final. Teammate Sonnele Oeztuerk (4:44.94) will return to the B final after winning the B heat last season. Texas A&M’s Katie Portz is also among the swimmer returning to the B final as she qualified 12th in 4:44.29.


  • SEC Meet Record: Fynn Minuth (South Carolina), 2018, 4:10.51
  • NCAA Record: Townley Haas (Texas), 2019, 4:08.19
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 4:16.04
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 4:11.82
  • 2019 Champion: Fynn Minuth (South Carolina), 4:11.98

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Walker Higgins (Georgia)- 4:13.66
  2. Bobby Finke (Florida)- 4:13.74
  3. Mark Theall (Texas A&M)- 4:13.98
  4. Kieran Smith (Florida)- 4:14.55
  5. Andrew Abruzzo (Georgia)- 4:15.03
  6. Khader Baqlah (Florida)- 4:15.56
  7. Greg Reed (Georgia)- 4:16.79
  8. Nico Hernandez-Tome (Alabama)- 4:17.64

Florida’s Kieran Smith dropped over 2 seconds from his lifetime best with his prelims swim in 4:14.55. His former best was a 4:16.96 from Winter Juniors back in 2017. Smith, who won the 200 IM on night 2 last season, is in the title hunt after he turned heads with his 1:30.11 leadoff on the Gators’ 800 free relay. Teammate Bobby Finke, who won the B final last season, also dropped over a second off his best with a 4:13.74. As usual, this will be a big scoring event for the Gators. 2019 bronze medalist Khader Baqlah qualified 6th in 4:15.56.

The Bulldogs are just as deep in the A final and even more so in terms of total scoring in this event. UGA is currently 10th of 10 teams on the men’s side, but this event alone will probably propel them several places upward. Walker Higgins took the top spot in 4:13.66. Andrew Abruzzo took over a second off his best time in 4:15.03 for the 5th spot. Greg Reed dropped a second and a half to give Georgia 3 in the championship heat, posting a lifetime best 4:16.79 to qualify 7th. Teammates Kevin Miller (4:17.88), Grant Norgan (4:17.89), and Aaron Apel (4:19.14) are all in the B final tonight.

Texas A&M’s Mark Theall, the current SEC season leader, put up a smooth 4:13.98 for 3rd. Alabama also got one into the championship heat as Nico Hernandez-Tome was 8th. Tome’s 4:17.64 was a massive drop of 6 seconds, as his former best 4:23.98 was from this meet last season. Auburn’s Christian Sztolcman also dropped nearly 6 seconds to qualify 12th in 4:18.83, just a hundredth ahead of teammate Aryan Makhija (4:18.84), who dropped 4 seconds. Qualifying for the C final, another Auburn Tiger, Davis Edwards (4:20.87, dropped over 9 seconds.


  • SEC Meet Record: Meghan Small (Tennessee), 2019, 1:51.62
  • NCAA Record: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 2018, 1:50.67
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 1:56.76
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 1:53.66
  • 2019 Champion: Meghan Small (Tennessee), 1:51.62

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Zoie Hartman (Georgia)- 1:54.22
  2. (T-2) Asia Seidt (Kentucky)- 1:54.43
  3. (T-2) Meghan Small (Tennessee)- 1:54.43
  4. Tess Cieplucha (Tennessee)- 1:55.32
  5. Jing Quah (Texas A&M)- 1:56.17
  6. Danielle DellaTorre (Georgia)- 1:56.24
  7. Caroline Theil (Texas A&M)- 1:56.67
  8. Bailey Bonnett (Kentucky)- 1:56.68

Georgia freshman Zoie Hartman leads the way in 1:54.22. Hartman, the fastest woman in the SEC this season, has been performing well at this meet so far. She had the 2nd fastest splits of the field last night in both the 200 medley relay, where she swam the breast leg, and 800 free relay, where she was the anchor. However, she’ll be up against reigning champion and SEC Meet Record holder Meghan Small (1:54.43) of Tennessee. Small tied for 2nd in prelims with Kentucky’s Asia Seidt. Though she missed the final last season, she was the silver medalist in this race in 2018.

Fellow Tennessee IMer Tess Cieplucha took nearly half a second off her best as she touched in 1:55.32 for 4th. Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas A&M will all have 2 in the final as well. Danielle DellaTorre dropped a few tenths for the Bulldogs in 1:56.24. A&M’s Jing Quah (1:56.17) and Caroline Theil (1:56.67) dropped almost a second with their first sub-1:57s.

Kentucky’s Bailey Bonnett (1:56.68) also broke 1:57 for the first time to qualify 8th. Teammate Izzy Gati made a huge drop to qualify for the B final in 1:57.54, her first swim under 2:00. The Wildcats’ Sophie Sorenson added some depth with a 1:57.80 for 12th, a lifetime best by over a second.

Florida’s Vanessa Pearl, who took 4th in this event last season, just missed the final with a 1:56.76 for 9th. Teammate Kelly Fertel (1:58.32) makes a return to the B final.

MEN’S 200 IM

  • SEC Meet Record: Caeleb Dressel (Florida), 2018, 1:38.13
  • NCAA Record: Caeleb Dressel (Florida), 2018, 1:38.13
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 1:43.82
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 1:41.34
  • 2019 Champion: Kieran Smith (Florida), 1:43.13

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Shaine Casas (Texas A&M)- 1:40.51
  2. Nick Alexander (Missouri)- 1:42.81
  3. Grant Sanders (Florida)- 1:43.38
  4. Danny Kovac (Missouri)- 1:43.58
  5. Glen Brown (Kentucky)- 1:43.98
  6. Dillon Hillis (Florida)- 1:44.29
  7. Nicholas Perera (Alabama)- 1:44.88
  8. Derek Maas (Alabama)- 1:44.95

Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas, the 10th fastest 200 IMer in history, was within half a second of his best to dominate in 1:40.51. Tonight, Casas looks to join the ranks of swimmers who have broken 1:40 in this event. So far, only 6 have accomplished the feat. Casas placed 4th in this event last season, and while 2019 champion Kieran Smith of Florida isn’t swimming it, Missouri’s reigning silver medalist Nick Alexander is the 2nd seed for the final. Alexander’s 1:42.81 in prelims marked his first time breaking 1:43. Teammate Danny Kovac qualified 4th in 1:43.58.

Even without Smith, the Gators have 2 men in the championship heat. Grant Sanders dropped nearly a second this morning as he qualified 3rd in 1:43.38. Teammate Dillon Hillis was just a tenth shy of his best with a 1:44.29 for 6th. Alabama also got 2 into the final as Nicholas Perera (1:44.88) dropped nearly 2 seconds and Derek Maas (1:44.95) dropped almost a second.


  • SEC Meet Record: Erika Brown (Tennessee), 2019, 21.15
  • NCAA Record: Abbey Weitzeil (Cal), 2019, 20.90
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 22.23
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 21.66
  • 2019 Champion: Erika Brown (Tennessee), 21.15

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Erika Brown (Tennessee)- 21.19
  2. Anna Hopkin (Arkansas)- 21.54
  3. Julie Meynen (Auburn)- 21.68
  4. Claire Fisch (Auburn)- 21.71
  5. Sarah Thompson (Missouri)- 21.77
  6. AJ Kutsch (Auburn)- 22.09
  7. Gabi Fa’amausili (Georgia)- 22.11
  8. Bailey Grinter (Tennessee)- 22.15

Tennessee’s Erika Brown tied her season best 21.19, just 4 hundredths shy of her SEC Meet Record from last season. Brown and Arkansas’ Anna Hopkin are currently tied as the fastest women in the SEC this season. Hopking was 2nd this morning in 21.54. Brown will be joined in the final by teammate Bailey Grinter, who took 8th in 22.15.

Auburn’s depth was on display here as they got 3 women into the final. Reigning bronze medalist Claire Fisch was just off her best in 21.71, while teammate Julie Meynen dropped a tenth off her best to take the 3rd seed in 21.68. Freshman AJ Kutsch took 6th this morning in 22.09, blowing away her best by over half a second. Robyn Clevenger just missed giving the Tigers a 4th swimmer in the A final by 5 hundredths as she took 10th in 22.20.

Missouri’s Sarah Thompson put up a 21.77 to qualify 5th for the final. Teammate Megan Keil was just a hundredth shy of qualifying for the final in a lifetime best 22.16. Haley Hynes, who took 7th in this event last season for Mizzou, will swim in the C final after putting up a 22.40 for 18th.


  • SEC Meet Record: Caeleb Dressel (Florida), 2016, 18.23
  • NCAA Record: Caeleb Dressel (Florida), 2018, 17.63
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 19.35
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 18.96
  • 2019 Champion: Robert Howard (Alabama), 18.74

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Zane Waddell (Alabama)- 19.16
  2. Santiago Grassi (Auburn)- 19.27
  3. Tyler Sesvold (Alabama)- 19.31
  4. Dillon Downing (Georgia)- 19.32
  5. Adam Koster (Texas A&M)- 19.38
  6. Brooks Curry (LSU)- 19.41
  7. Peter Wetzlar (Kentucky)- 19.43
  8. Lewis Burras (South Carolina)- 19.45

Alabama’s Zane Waddell was just a hundredth away from his best as he led the heats in 19.16. Teammate Tyler Sesvold clipped 3 tenths off his best as he put up a 19.31 for 3rd behind Auburn’s Santiago Grassi (19.27). Georgia’s Dillon Downing took 3 tenths off his best, just a hundredth behind Sesvold in 19.32. Texas A&M’s Adam Koster also swam a best, qualifying 5th in 19.38.

LSU freshman Brooks Curry dropped half a second, touching in 19.41 for 6th seed. Kentucky’s Peter Wetzlar knocked a couple hundredths off his best in 19.43. Rounding out the top 8 was South Carolina’s Lewis Burras, who swam a best by 2 tenths in 19.45. The Gamecocks’ AJ Ross was just 3 hundredths away from the final in 19.48. That was a huge swim for him, as it was his first time under 20 seconds and his first best time in the event since 2018.

Texas A&M’s Mike Thibert, who anchored the Aggies to 200 medley relay victory, qualified 11th in 19.57. Behind him in 12th is Florida’s Will Davis, the Gators’ 200 medley relay anchor, in 19.59. Davis will be joined in the B final by twin brother Isaac Davis (19.63) and freshman teammate Eric Friese (19.50).

Jonathan Berneburg, who anchored for Bama on the medley relay last night, was significantly faster than his anchor split. Berneburg, who missed his wall on the turn and anchored in 20.28, was significantly faster than that this morning from a flat start. He swam a 19.67 to qualify 16th, matching his lifetime best to the hundredth. Berneburg will now have a swim-off for 16th with Tennessee’s Alec Connolly and Texas A&M’s Clayton Bobo (19.67).


  1. Texas A&M- 178
  2. Tennessee- 160
  3. Kentucky- 149
  4. Auburn- 147
  5. Florida- 138
  6. Missouri- 131
  7. LSU- 119
  8. South Carolina- 109
  9. Alabama- 106
  10. Georgia- 101


  1. Florida- 166
  2. Texas A&M- 163
  3. Tennessee- 159
  4. Kentucky- 150
  5. Auburn- 144
  6. LSU- 117
  7. Georgia- 111
  8. (T-8) South Carolina- 104
  9. (T-8) Alabama- 104
  10. Missouri- 95
  11. Arkansas- 89
  12. Vanderbilt- 60

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1 year ago


Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

I was asking about Prelim and Final heat sheets, I didn’t see that link. Sorry

Todd Mann
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Yes – is there a link out there for the prelims heat sheet?

Reply to  Todd Mann
1 year ago

Only place we’ve seen them is on MM.

Gordon Wheeler Superfan
Reply to  swimperson
1 year ago

Why are you yelling

Reply to  Gordon Wheeler Superfan
1 year ago

How else is Braden supposed to hear them?!?!?!

1 year ago

Minor thing but Townley has the NCAA record in the 500 free at 4:08.19, rather than Clark. Well, thats of course if Smith doesn’t smash it by today.

1 year ago
1 year ago

So far SS’s meet preview article has been pretty spot on! Amanda Nunan’s been on fire these past 2 months in other distance events and her prelim swim – 6 sec drop, is another example!

1 year ago

men’s 500 is going to be an electric factory tonight

Caeleb Fan
1 year ago

Florida men looking great

Reply to  Caeleb Fan
1 year ago

Smith’s 500 was effortless. 4:08 tonight a real possibility.

1 year ago

For anyone that is a starter as an official, please take note of the lady that started at SEC’s this morning. Fantastic job! There are several starters I would like to send this video to as a best practice 🙂

Reply to  Anonymous
1 year ago

The starter is one of two Olympic starters in Tokyo this summer

1 year ago

Weird stuff going on with Bama. 500s and IMs looking great, women’s 50 not so much. Would expect the opposite with Coley coaching. Will see where the sprint men end up.

Reply to  RollTide
1 year ago

Why? Its exactly what happens when Coley coaches. Riding coattails of the rest of the staff. Im sure he’ll take the credit tho.

TBone willy
Reply to  Koolaide
1 year ago

As he should. It’s his team/staff/swimmers. Those IMers swim in his group as well.

Reply to  RollTide
1 year ago

1st & 3rd men’s 50 free. Men scoring in a final, they’ll move up in standings today

Reply to  RollTide
1 year ago

What is going on with their turns?!

Reply to  oldschool
1 year ago

They’re the special teams of swimming. The curse is spreading through the athletic dept.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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