2022 SEC Women’s Fan Guide: Will the Vols Reclaim Their Throne?

Anya Pelshaw
by Anya Pelshaw 9

February 14th, 2022 College, News, SEC

2022  SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS

In the last seven years, four different teams have won the women’s SEC conference title, including the last two going to first-time champions. Tennessee won in 2020, and Kentucky won in 2021. This is juxtaposed to the men’s side where Florida has won nine straight titles and is on a path for its 10th.

The SEC allows teams to enter 22 athletes. Swimmers and divers count as the same number of athletes. Each swimmer can compete in a maximum of 7 total events, with no more than 3 of those being individual events.

Based on last year’s scoring and not including fifth-years, Kentucky returns the most points with 760. Alabama was next with 647.

Although Tennessee was supposed to graduate the most points last year at 285, their two highest-scoring seniors, Alexis Yager and Tjasa Pintar, both returned as graduate students meaning that only 147 points have moved on.  Yager’s highest seed is her number one ranking in the 200 IM, and Pintar’s highest seed is fourth in the 100 freestyle. The Vols were recently the top-ranked SEC team in the CSCAA Top 25 poll, coming in at #3. The Vols trailed only Virginia and Texas.

Kentucky’s highest senior scorer, Bailey Bonnett, returned for a fifth year as well. Bonnett is entered in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke, as well as the 200 and 400 IMs.

After coming in second last year, Florida lost their top scorer as diver Ashley McCool graduated. Top swimmer Vanessa Pearl announced her medical retirement this month. A slight dark horse for the Gators may be Ekaterina Nikonova, who has only competed in one meet so far as she arrived at Florida at the start of the calendar year. Nikonova is entered in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles and may be a boost to the relays as well.

MEET 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

Alabama – Rhyan White (senior back/fly), Cora Dupre (junior free/IM), Avery Wiseman (breast/IM), Morgan Scott (senior sprint free), Kalia Antoniou (senior sprint free), Kensey McMahon (senior distance free). White will look to defend her titles in the 100 fly, 100 back, and 200 back. Antoniou, Scott, and Dupre are the top three seeds in the 100 freestyle which will also make a big impact on the 400 freestyle relay. McMahon is the top seed in both the 500 and 1650 freestyles.

Arkansas- Vanessa Herrmann (senior breast), Bella Cothern (sophomore free/breast), Andrea Sansores De La Fuente (senior free/fly/back). Herrmann is the #3 seed in the 100 breast and #6 in the 200 breast. She will look to improve upon her sixth place finish in the 100 breast and 10th in the 200 breast from last year. Cothern will help out the sprint freestyle relays.

Auburn – Hannah Ownbey (sophomore IM/breast), Emily Hetzer (senior distance free), Meghan Lee (sophomore back). Hetzler has the potential to be top 8 in the distance free events. Ownbey made the A final of both IMs last year and looks to do the same here again with the potential to add points as well in the breaststroke events.

Florida Talia Bates (junior free/fly/back), Taylor Mathieu (junior free/breast), Elise Bauer (sophomore distance free), Kathleen Golding (junior free/IM). Bauer and Mathieu are a strong distance combo for the Gators. Both were top 8 in the 500 freestyle last year. Bates is the #3 seed in the 200 freestyle after finishing fourth in the event last year and has the potential make a few A finals appearances. The school lost breaststroke duo Vanessa Peal (who medically retired) and Cecilia Porter (who has been absent for unknown reasons) and will have huge ground to make up. The Gators also picked up Ekaterina Nikonova midseason who will look to make an impact in the sprint freestyle events.

Georgia – Zoie Hartman (junior breast/IM), Abigail McCulloh (freshman distance free), Dakota Luther (senior fly/IM), Dune Coetzee (freshman free/fly), Danielle Dellatorre (fifth year breast/IM). Hartman will look to defend her titles in the 200 IM, 100 breast, and 200 breast. She is the #2 seed in the 200 IM and the #4 seed in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Freshman McCulloh has the potential to make a huge impact in the 500 and 1650 freestyles as she is the #3 seed in the 500 and #2 seed in the 1650. She is a huge addition for Georgia after only scoring 31 points in the 1650 last year.

Kentucky – Riley Gaines (senior free/fly), Bailey Bonnet (fifth year breast/IM), Gillian Davey (junior breast/IM), Caitlin Brooks (junior back), Sophie Sorenson (senior back/IM). Kentucky scored huge points last year in the backstrokes and IMs. Sorenson and Brooks are the #2 and #4 seeds in the 200 backstroke respectively, and Davey and Bonnett are the #3 and #4 seed in the 400 IM. Gaines will look to defend her 200 free title as well as contribute to the 800 freestyle relay which won last year as well.

LSU – Zoe Mekus (junior breast), Katarina Milutinovich (junior free/back), Chiara Pellacani (freshman diving). Pellacani is the #4 seed in the 3 meter and #7 seed in the 1 meter diving events. LSU scored most of their points last year in diving and look poised to do so again this year.

Missouri – Sarah Thompson (fifth year free/back), Amy Feddersen (junior sprinter), Meredith Rees (junior backstroke). Thompson returning for a fifth year is huge as she was the highest points scorer last year. Thompson is the #2 seed in the 100 back and 100 fly as well as the #3 seed in the 50 freestyle.

South Carolina – Bella Pantano (sophomore back), Brooke Schultz (graduate diving). Schultz was third in the 1 meter and fifth in the three meter last year at Arkansas. She has now transferred to South Carolina with her dad who is also the diving coach. She is the top seed in the 1 meter and #2 seed in the 3 meter.

Tennessee – Ellen Walshe (freshman fly/IM), Alexis Yager (graduate IM/breast), Mona McSharry (sophomore free/breast), Sara Stotler (freshman fly/IM), Summer Smith (freshman IM/fly/back). Walshe is the top seed in the 200 IM, 100 butterfly, and 200 butterfly. Yager returning is huge for the Vols as she has the potential to make multiple A finals and is the top seed in the 400 IM. McSharry is the top seed in the 100 breast and will also make an impact on the 400 medley relay.

Texas A&M – Chloe Stepanek (sophomore sprinter), Olivia Theall (sophomore fly), Aimee Wilson (senior diving). Wilson is the top seed in the 3-meter and #2 seed in the 1-meter diving events. She finished second in both events last year. Stepanek was second in the 200 freestyle last year and is currently seeded fifth.

Vanderbilt- Kailia Utley (freshman fly), Faith Knelson (breaststroke). Utley is on the cusp of scoring in the butterfly events. Knelson transferred from Arizona mid-season and is entered as the 30th seed in the 100 breaststroke and has no entry time in the 200 breaststroke. Knelson has best times of 1:00.60 in the 100 breast and 2:16.55 in the 200 breast. Her 100 best time would place her on the cusp of the A final.

Showdowns

200 IM

Georgia junior Zoie Hartman won the event last year but Tennessee freshman Ellen Walshe is the top seed in the event this year. Walshe won the event over Hartman in the dual meet between the two teams a few weeks ago by over two seconds. Tennessee’s fifth year Alexis Yager also has the potential to contend after finishing third last year.

100 butterfly

Alabama senior Rhyan White won the event last year but Ellen Walshe also looks to contend in the event this year. Walshe is the top seed and White is the #8 seed. White’s entry time is from midseason when she did not swim the event at finals, so she may have more in the tank to challenge Walshe and defend her title.

200 freestyle

Kentucky senior Riley Gaines won the event last year and is the top seed this year. Alabama junior Cora Dupre is the #2 seed trailing Gaines by only 0.12. Dupre was 8th in the event last year but her entry time is over a second and a half faster than she went at the meet last year.

Selections

The Swimulator doesn’t factor into account diving, which will give South Carolina, LSU, and Texas A&M an advantage.

Swimulator Rankings:

  1. Tennessee, 1209
  2. Alabama, 1011
  3. Georgia, 870
  4. Kentucky, 832
  5. Auburn, 728.5
  6. Florida, 710.5
  7. Missouri, 549
  8. Arkansas, 459
  9. South Carolina, 346
  10. Texas A&M, 341
  11. LSU, 250
  12. Vanderbilt, 150

Relays and diving are huge points changers for teams. The strongest diving teams from a year ago are projected to be at the bottom of the standings, but that may pull them ahead of teams who score more points in swimming. Arkansas lost their best diver, Brooke Schultz, to South Carolina. They also lost her father, Dale Schultz, who was the head diving coach and is now at South Carolina as well. With Tennessee’s dominance so far, as well as Alabama’s success under Margo Geer, the two teams will have a good matchup. Tennessee’s freshman class, combined with their returning fifth years, helps us come to the conclusion here at SwimSwam that this gives the Vols an edge over the Tide.

But we still expect Alabama, with its stars, to be the higher-finishing team at NCAAs.

SwimSwam Picks

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

In This Story

9
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

9 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Aquajosh
9 months ago

Bates/Cronk/Nikonova/Mack are going to make for some pretty nasty free relays for Florida.

Soapy
9 months ago

Wait I thought teams can enter 24 athletes?

VFL
9 months ago

I think Bama has a little more star power, which should be reflected in their relays—but Lady Vols come into the meet with no real holes on paper. I’m thinking we only bring one diver (Cable) which leaves us 21 swimmers projected to score in at least a B final. Other than diving, we should have 2-4 scorers in every event. Wiseman vs McSharry will play a big factor as they not only battle for individual points in the breaststrokes, but an edge in the medley relays. Another fun battle within the war will be McMahon vs Stege.

Swimm
Reply to  VFL
9 months ago

Lol the relays won’t be close. Alabama women will crush everyone in 4 of the 5 relays. Only one they aren’t the huge favorite in is the 800

kazoo
9 months ago

Go Vols!

VFL
9 months ago

Lady Vols

Ghost
9 months ago

Yes

Klorn8d
9 months ago

I forgot Bama won the 400 Free relay at NCAAs last year. I know they lost one leg, if feels weird rhyan white never seems to swim free relays. She could probably go 48 mid at least in a 100 if she did a relay exchange and flipped onto her back for the rest of the race, seems odd with how good she is at fly and back she hasn’t been a factor on those relays.

Swimm
Reply to  Klorn8d
9 months ago

She swam the 400 free relay at SECs in 2020 and split 48.51. I think she didn’t swim it last year because of how great those other 4 women were. White isn’t beating Scott, Dupre, or Antoniou in a 100 free, but this year is kind of interesting. Bama has Petkova, a breaststroker who also goes 48 mid in the 100, so she is a strong candidate. Whether they choose White or Petkova will be an interesting decision

About Anya Pelshaw

Anya Pelshaw

Anya has been with SwimSwam since June 2021 as both a writer and social media coordinator. She was in attendance at the 2022 Women's NCAA Championships writing and doing social media for SwimSwam. Currently, Anya is pursuing her B.A. in Government & Law and Economics at Lafayette College. There she is …

Read More »