2020 SEC Championships: Day 3 Prelims Live Recap


The 2020 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships continue this morning in Auburn, Alabama. Swimmers are set to compete in prelims of the 400 IM, 100 fly, and 200 free. Florida’s Kieran Smith, who smashed the 500 free NCAA Record last night, will headline the men’s 400 IM. He’ll be up against the reigning champ, though, as teammate Bobby Finke is also in the mix. Erika Brown of Tennessee is chasing her 3rd-straight title in the 100 fly and will look to take down her own SEC Meet Record, which she set in 2018 and tied in 2019.


  • SEC Meet Record: Elizabeth Beisel (Florida), 2012, 3:58.35
  • NCAA Record: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 2018, 3:54.60
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 4:03.62
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 4:10.00
  • 2019 Champion: Emma Barksdale (South Carolina) – 4:01.52

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Tess Cieplucha (Tennessee)- 4:04.04
  2. Vanessa Pearl (Florida)- 4:05.52
  3. Alexis Yager (Tennessee)- 4:05.75
  4. Bailey Bonnett (Kentucky)- 4:06.36
  5. Alexis Preski (Alabama)- 4:06.83
  6. Jing Quah (Texas A&M)- 4:08.35
  7. Kathleen Golding (Florida)- 4:08.94
  8. Kelly Fertel (Florida)- 4:09.11

Tennessee’s Tess Cieplucha, who finished just off the podium in the 200 IM, led prelims in 4:04.04. The Vols will have 2 in the final as Alexis Yager dropped over 2 seconds, lowering her best from a 4:08.31 to a 4:05.75 to qualify 3rd.

The Florida women aren’t taking any risks in prelims this morning after a couple of swimmers narrowly missed making the championship final yesterday. One of those swimmers was Vanessa Pearl, who qualified 2nd here in 4:05.52. Pearl is the reigning runner-up in this event. Teammate Kathleen Golding, a freshman, broke 4:10 for the first time to qualify 7th in 4:08.94. Teammate Kelly Fertel returns to the final after qualifying 8th in 4:09.11.

Kentucky’s Bailey Bonnett dropped a second as she took 4th in 4:06.36. Alabama’s Alexis Preski took the 5th seed in 4:06.83 with a huge, 4-second drop. Texas A&M will have a swimmer in the final as Jing Quah (4:08.35) smashed her best by nearly 7 seconds.

MEN’S 400 IM

  • SEC Meet Record: Hugo Gonzalez (Auburn), 2018, 3:35.76
  • NCAA Record: Chase Kalisz (Georgia), 2017, 3:33.42
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 3:39.16
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 3:43.42
  • 2019 Champion: Bobby Finke (Florida) – 3:40.94

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Kieran Smith (Florida)- 3:40.54
  2. Grant Sanders (Florida)- 3:42.90
  3. Nicholas Perera (Alabama)- 3:43.61
  4. Bobby Finke (Florida)- 3:43.79
  5. Kevin Vargas (Florida)- 3:44.16
  6. Andrew Abruzzo (Georgia)- 3:44.46
  7. Clayton Forde (Georgia)- 3:44.43
  8. Miguel Cancel (Florida)- 3:45.25

The Florida Gators will undoubtedly take over the lead in the team race after this final, where they have 5 of the 8 finalists. Kieran Smith, the 2019 runner-up, leads the way in a lifetime best 3:40.54. Reigning champion Bobby Finke (3:43.79) and 2019 bronze medalist Grant Sanders (3:42.90) return as the Gators look for another podium sweep in this event. Freshman Kevin Vargas dropped 2 seconds for the 5th seed in 3:44.16. Miguel Cancel also dropped 2 seconds for the Gators to nab the 8th spot in 3:45.35.

Alabama’s Nicholas Perera, the 2019 B final winner, shaved a few hundredths off his best to qualify 3rd in 3:43.61. Andrew Abruzzo (3:44.46) and Clayton Forde (3:44.43) give Georgia the other 2 spots in the final. Texas A&M’s Benjamin Walker narrowly missed the top 8 as he was 9th in 3:45.41.


  • SEC Meet Record: Erika Brown (Tennessee), 2018/2019, 49.85
  • NCAA Record: Louise Hansson (USC)/Maggie MacNeil (Michigan), 2019, 49.26
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 50.92
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 52.34
  • 2019 Champion: Erika Brown (Tennessee) – 49.85

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Erika Brown (Tennessee)- 50.39
  2. Rhyan White (Alabama)- 50.97
  3. Trude Rothrock (Tennessee)- 51.53
  4. Sherridon Dressel (Florida)- 51.60
  5. Dakota Luther (Georgia)- 51.99
  6. Izzy Gati (Kentucky)- 52.02
  7. Christina Lappin (South Carolina)- 52.27
  8. Flora Molnar (Alabama)- 52.32

Reigning champion Erika Brown of Tennessee put up a 50.39 to lead prelims, breaking the former Pool Record of 50.62 set by Natalie Coughlin back in 2003. Teammate Trude Rothrock broke 52 for the first time to qualify 3rd in 51.53. Alabama’s Rhyan White dropped nearly a second in 50.97 for 2nd seed. The Crimson Tide will also have 2 in the final as Flora Molnar took 8th in 52.32.

Florida’s Sherridon Dressel took almost a second off her time as she qualified 4th in 51.60. Georgia’s Dakota Luther broke 52 for the first time as she took 5th in 51.99. Kentucky’s Izzy Gati (52.02) and South Carolina’s Christina Lappin (52.27) also swam bests to qualify for the championship heat.


  • SEC Meet Record: Caeleb Dressel (Florida), 2017, 44.21
  • NCAA Record: Caeleb Dressel (Florida), 2018, 42.80
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 45.05
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 45.90
  • 2019 Champion: Maxime Rooney (Florida) – 45.06

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Camden Murphy (Georgia)- 45.54
  2. Kayky Mota (Tennessee)- 45.65
  3. Tyler Sesvold (Alabama)- 45.88
  4. Danny Kovac (Missouri)- 45.94
  5. Eric Friese (Florida)- 46.12
  6. Santiago Grassi (Auburn)- 46.17
  7. Daniel Hein (Missouri)- 46.18
  8. Will Davis (Florida)- 46.24

Georgia’s Camden Murphy, the 2019 bronze medalist, leads the way in 45.54, with Tennessee’s Kayky Mota closely behind in 45.65. That was a best for Mota by 3 tenths. They narrowly missed having 2 Volunteers in the final as Braga Verhage was 9th in 46.37.

Missouri and Florida each got 2 men into the final. Danny Kovac (45.94) and Daniel Hein (46.18) qualified 4th and 7th, respectively, for the Tigers. Florida freshman Eric Friese clipped a couple of tenths from his best in 46.12 for 5th. Teammate Will Davis was 8th in 46.24.

Alabama’s Tyler Sesvold dropped nearly a second as he broke 46 for the first time, qualifying 3rd in 45.88. Auburn’s Santiago Grassi, who just missed the podium in 2019, returns to the final with a 46.17 for 6th. Teammate Christian Ginieczki dropped over a second as he qualified for the B final in 46.42.


  • SEC Meet Record: Shannon Vreeland (Georgia), 2014, 1:41.83
  • NCAA Record: Missy Franklin (Cal), 2015, 1:39.10
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 1:42.98
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 1:45.12
  • 2019 Champion: Erin Falconer (Auburn) – 1:43.04

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Veronica Burchill (Georgia)- 1:43.74
  2. Anna Hopkin (Arkansas)- 1:44.67
  3. Ali Galyer (Kentucky)- 1:44.69
  4. Courtney Harnish (Georgia)- 1:44.84
  5. Meghan Small (Tennessee)- 1:44.87
  6. Karling Hemstreet (Texas A&M)- 1:45.20
  7. Katie Portz (Texas A&M)- 1:45.36
  8. Tjasa Pintar (Tennessee)- 1:45.47

Georgia’s Veronica Burchill had a breakthrough swim here, beating her former best for the first time since 2018. Burchill’s 1:43.74 was a best by half a second and her first swim under 1:44. Teammate Courtney Harnish, the 500 free champion and last season’s 200 free bronze medalist, qualified 4th in 1:44.84.

Tennessee’s Meghan Small, the 2019 silver medalist, put up a 1:44.87 to qualify 5th. Small is looking for her 2nd title after winning the 200 IM last night. She’s already swum a lifetime best here with her 1:43.21 to lead off the winning 800 free relay. Teammate Tjasa Pintar qualified 8th in 1:45.47. Texas A&M will also have 2 in the final with Karling Hemstreet (1:45.20) and Katie Portz (1:45.36).

Kentucky’s Ali Galyer, who also put up a best time with her 1:43.99 relay leadoff on Tuesday, qualified 3rd in 1:44.69. Teammate Riley Gaines just missed the final as she clipped her lifetime best in 1:45.52. Auburn’s Claire Fisch was a tenth behind to qualify 10th in 1:45.66. Freshman teammate Abbey Webb broke 1:46 for the first time to take 11th in 1:45.66. The Tigers will have 3 in the B final as Jessica Merritt (1:46.12) was 15th.


  • SEC Meet Record: Kieran Smith (Florida), 2020, 1:30.11
  • NCAA Record: Dean Farris (Harvard), 2019, 1:29.15
  • NCAA ‘A’ Cut: 1:32.05
  • 2019 NCAA Invited: 1:34.21
  • 2019 Champion: Mikel Schreuders (Missouri) – 1:31.27

Top 8 Qualifiers:

  1. Mark Theall (Texas A&M)- 1:32.48
  2. Brooks Curry (LSU)- 1:33.37
  3. Christian Sztolcman (Auburn)- 1:33.62
  4. Gerry Quinn (Florida)- 1:33.73
  5. Khader Baqlah (Florida)- 1:33.82
  6. Phil Costin (South Carolina)- 1:34.40
  7. Grant Norgan (Georgia)- 1:34.43
  8. (TIE 8th) Seth Bailey (Tennessee)- 1:34.44
  9. (TIE 8th) Josh Walsh (Tennessee)- 1:34.44

Texas A&M’s Mark Theall, who led the SEC coming into this meet, clipped his best time to lead prelims in 1:32.48. Theall is seeking his first title after earning silver in the 500 free last night. After dropping 3 seconds from his best to lead off the 800 free relay on Tuesday, LSU freshman Brooks Curry was within a few tenths of his best to qualify 2nd in 1:33.37. Auburn’s Christian Sztolcman was also within a few tenths of his best from the Tuesday relay leadoff. He qualified 3rd in 1:33.62.

Florida’s Gerry Quinn broke 1:34 for the first time in 1:33.73 for 4th.He was hundredths ahead of teammate Khader Baqlah (1:33.82). Baqlah, a senior, was the 2018 SEC Champion in this event and has earned a podium finish every year since he was a freshman.

South Carolina’s Phil Costin took the 6th spot in the final as he swam a 1:34.40. That’s about a tenth shy of his best from the leadoff leg of the 800 free relay. Georgia’s Grant Norgan dropped a second as he finished 7th in 1:34.43.

Just a hundredth behind Norgan, Tennessee’s Seth Bailey and Josh Walsh tied for the 8th spot in finals at 1:34.44. They’ll have to swim off or let the coaches decide who gets to swim in the championship final. Walsh dropped half a second, while dropped nearly 2 seconds.

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3 years ago

Anyone else think Florida’s men’s performace are a giant FU to the guys that transferred?

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  I_said_It
3 years ago

I doubt it. But maybe there is animosity.

Sean Justice
Reply to  I_said_It
3 years ago

I really don’t think so. UF is trying to win conference and qualify as many guys as possible for NCAA. Nothing more or nothing less.
I am assuming, because I do not know for sure, that the coaching stuff is making sure that all the swimmers on the team are ready and swimming fast. They are not trying to prove anything to transfers.
What’s done is done and they are moving forward.

They are swimming really fast and as an alumni it is fun to watch!!

Speed Racer
Reply to  I_said_It
3 years ago

New theory. Maybe the transfers did not want to buy into the new team culture and it was a mutual decision to part ways.

Fuel the Jets
3 years ago


3 years ago

Rock, paper, scissors for that final spot in the 200 free?

Reply to  DravenOP
3 years ago

Put the swimmer you trust more in the B final so there is less potential of dropping places.

Reply to  AuggieBuschFan
3 years ago

I would agree but the only flaw is that the person who is trusted more will not be able to gain more points in the a final

Reply to  Dbswims
3 years ago

Jared Anderson made a good point. The Tennessee men don’t look like they’re going to win this team title. He’d have them do the swimoff, with much cleaner water, chasing NCAA cuts (both are two-tenths from what it took to qualify for NCAAs last year).

I hate that conference placing doesn’t mean more to where the decision would exist in a bubble free from those kind of considerations…but unfortunately, it doesn’t. The NCAA invite is way more important, long term.

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

I agree with this take! But I think it also has to be considered that the race for 4th-7th after finals last night wasn’t that far apart and athletic departments prefer to get 4th over 7th especially in a conference so competitive like the SEC. Coaches who get top 4 at conference will have a little more job security than those getting 7th. Sounds extreme but its the truth.

Reply to  AuggieBuschFan
3 years ago

Interesting decision here also because Lance Asti is the primary Tenn men’s coach and more likely to be seeking job security than overall head of progam, Matt Kredich, who is pretty secure.

3 years ago

Where is Shaine Casas today?

Reply to  gator
3 years ago


Reply to  Swimmer
3 years ago

Nah he got stuck in the stall while changing. Happens to all sub 1:40 2IM SEC Champs

Reply to  gator
3 years ago

When there are four days of prelims and you are limited to three individual events, there will be at least one day you don’t swim anything.

3 years ago

Anna Hopkin deserves at least a mention in the 200 writeup, given that she qualified second.

3 years ago

Is it me, or are there double lane lines between all of the lanes? I’ve never seen lane lines so perfect (ok, maybe Trials).

Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

There are also double lane lines at Big 10s. I think it’s pretty standard at big meets these days.

Reply to  dmswim
3 years ago

And also in greensboro for ACCs

Reply to  TBC
3 years ago

Also At MIAAs

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

But Worlds never has double lane lines from what I recall?

Reply to  Samuel Huntington
3 years ago

Probably just cause it’s a LCM pool… Bummer.

Reply to  Samuel Huntington
3 years ago

Per FINA rules “There shall not be more than one lane rope between each lane.”

3 years ago

Looks like the Lady Vols has all 6 of their entered swimmers qualified for finals in the 100 fly – 2 in A, 3 in B and 1 in C. Florida has 1. This should go a long way in overcoming the diving point power that Florida has. Looks pretty promising for Tennessee women!

Reply to  Justanarp
3 years ago

Girlie Vols are swimming GREAT and INSPIRED! The meet is over nobody will get in the way of the Coonskinned Crew.

Reply to  Justanarp
3 years ago

Yes, Vols will get some major points out of this event.

Reply to  Justanarp
3 years ago

Nice to see Kaitlyn Harty back in the pool

Will 37
3 years ago

Florida’s freshman Eric Friese with that no breath last 25 in his 100 fly.

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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