2023 SEC Champs Preview: Despite Missing Stars, Can The Lady Vols Go Back-to-Back?

2023 SEC Championships – Women



  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 medley relay
  • Women’s 3-meter diving
  • 800 freestyle relay


  • 200 freestyle relay
  • 500 freestyle
  • 200 IM
  • 50 freestyle
  • Women’s 1-meter diving


  • 400 IM
  • 100 butterfly
  • 200 freestyle
  • Men’s 3-meter diving


  • 200 butterfly
  • 100 backstroke
  • 100 breaststroke
  • Women’s platform diving
  • 400 medley relay


  • 1650 freestyle
  • 200 backstroke
  • 100 freestyle
  • 200 breaststroke
  • Men’s platform diving
  • 400 freestyle relay

2022 Final Standings

  1. Tennessee – 1313.5
  2. Kentucky – 1043
  3. Alabama – 1038
  4. Georgia – 986
  5. Florida – 905
  6. Texas A&M – 625
  7. Auburn – 584
  8. LSU – 541
  9. Missouri – 485.5
  10. South Carolina – 460
  11. Arkansas – 397
  12. Vanderbilt – 123

In contrast to the men’s side of the meet where the Florida Gators have built a dynasty, there’s everything to play for in the women’s meet. In the last eight years, four different teams have won the women’s SEC conference title, including Tennessee for the first time in 2020 and Kentucky for the first time in 2021.

Tennessee looks to repeat as champions, and in some ways, things have gotten easier on that front as perennial contenders Alabama have suffered big losses that all but take them out of the running in the team race. However, Florida has built a very strong team in Gainesville, and the addition of Emma Weyant only adds more depth to a team that got a lot better this past offseason. There’s also Kentucky, Georgia, and Auburn to watch out for, all teams that, for varying reasons, are eager to prove themselves.

While LSU won’t factor in the team race, absolutely don’t forget about Maggie MacNeil, who’s been tearing it up for the Tigers in her fifth-season and aims to win three event titles at her first and only SEC championships.

Swimmers to Watch

Alabama – Rhyan White (Gr – back), Kalia Antoniou (Gr – free/fly/back), Cat Wright (Gr – fly/breast), Avery Wiseman (So – breast/IM) 

Alabama’s hopes for the championship season took a massive hit with the early retirements of Morgan Scott and Cora Dupre. Together, they combined for 155.5 individual points, to say nothing of the value that they brought to Alabama’s relays. They are a weaker team without those two athletes on the roster, and they’ll feel it at both SECs and NCAAs.

Despite the losses, they still have Olympian and Worlds medalist Rhyan White, who scored a team high 92 points at 2022 SECs. She swept the backstrokes last year, and is in a strong position to do so again. She’ll likely do better than her fourth place in the 100 fly as well, given that none of the medalists are competing this year, but she’ll have to do something spectacular if she wants to beat NCAA record holder Maggie Macneil.

They have two other fifth-years who are key to their team: Kalia Antoniou and Cat Wright. As a freshman, Avery Wiseman scored 59 points from 2 ‘A’ finals and 1 ‘C’ final. Her highest finish was third in the 100 breaststroke, and with their losses, Alabama will rely on her for big points more than before.

Arkansas — Vanessa Herrmann (Gr – breast/IM), Kobie Melton (Gr – free/fly), Andrea Sansores (Gr – free/back/fly), Betsy Wizard (Fr – free)

It looked like this was going to be a down year for Arkansas as 161 of their 173 2022 SEC points were scored by their seniors, with the then freshmen and juniors combining for a single point. However, they’ve gotten a bit of a reprieve, as Vanessa HerrmannKobie Melton, and Andrea Sansores all stuck around for a fifth-year. They’ve added more fifth years in the form of two transfers, Luciana Thomas (Notre Dame) and Alessia Ferraguti.

They also get a boost from British freshman Betsy Wizard. She’s been adjusting nicely to yards, and her 1:46.35 best time in the 200 free would put her in last year’s ‘B’ final, an event that Arkansas did not score any points in last year. She’s also sitting ninth in the NCAA in the 200 fly (1:54.33).

So, instead of challenging Vanderbilt for the bottom spot in the conference, Arkansas looks set to hold steady.

Auburn – Ellie Waldrep (So – back/fly), Daisy Platts (Gr – back), Stasya Makarova (So – breast), Meghan Lee (Jr – back/IM)

The Auburn women’s improvement trajectory has not been on quite the same scale as the men’s, but they’ve made their own gains over the course of the last year. They’ve added big depth to their backstroke group in the form of NCAA qualifier Daisy Platts, who transferred from Bowling Green for her fifth-year.

Also bringing firepower to the backstroke group is Ellie Waldrepa sophomore who posted a lifetime best 51.74 at midseason. That time would have bumped her into the ‘A’ final with teammate Meghan LeeAs a sophomore, Lee was the Auburn women’s highest scorer with 54 points.

Another swimmer with a big role is breaststroker Stasya Makarova. The sophomore is the team’s go-to breaststroker and has had a strong season so far, breaking the program record in the 100 breaststroke (58.91).

Last year, the Auburn women finished seventh, 41 points behind Texas A&M, and like their men’s team, they are sure to have their eye on moving up the standings.

Florida – Emma Weyant (So – free/IM), Talia Bates (Sr – back/free/fly), Tylor Mathieu (Sr – free/breast), Mabel Zavaros (So – back/IM)

Emma Weyant getting cleared was a huge boost for a Florida Gator team that already had a lot to be pleased about this season. Weyant is likely worth 80-90 points, on top of other newcomers like freshmen Zoe Dixon and Hayden Miller, and fifth-year transfer Nina Kucheran (Florida State). Last year, Dixon and Miller would have made three and two ‘A’ finals respectively. Kucheran provides breaststroke depth, as she sits #2 on the team in the 100 breast (1:01.48 season-best) behind Olivia Peoples.

Talia Bates, Tylor Mathieu, and Mabel Zavaros were huge last year, scoring a combined 185 individual points, and are all back in the water for the Gators this season. Don’t forget about Ekaterina Nikonova either, a sprint freestyler who will be an important part of their relays.

Another thing to keep in mind with the Gators is that with their additions, their relays got a lot stronger. Their diving did as well, plus they’ve got Maha Amer back for her redshirt senior season. On the boards, Amer was their best diver last season, contributing 50 points. This season, they stand to add to that total with freshman Casey Greenberg.

Georgia – Zoie Hartman (Sr – breast/IM), Eboni McCarty (So – free/back), Callie Dickinson (Gr – fly/back), Abby McCulloh (So – free)

Georgia’s offseason was defined by the departures of Jack Bauerle, Dakota Luther, and Maxine Parker. The Dawgs responded admirably, going 7-3 in dual meets. Those three losses come at the hands of Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, all of whom are strong contenders for the team title.

Georgia likely won’t be in the mix for that title, but there’s the potential for some strong individual performances. After a bit of a down year, Zoie Hartman has swum well this season, with season bests of 58.76/2:06.97/1:54.26 in the 100 breast/200 breast/200 IM. Last year, she scored 84 points at SECs and she looks set to be in that ballpark again.

In addition, sophomores Eboni McCarty and Abby McCulloh will rack up points as well. McCarty has posted lifetime bests in her three primary events this season (50 free, 100 free, 100 back) and looks set two improve upon her 12th place in the 50 free and 15th in the 100 back.

Despite the losses, Georgia retained Callie Dickinson, who scored 66 points last year and is back for her fifth year.

Kentucky – Gillian Davey (Sr – breast/IM), Lauren Poole (Jr – IM/breast), Izzy Gati (Gr – fly/free), Kyndal Knight (Gr – diving)

Kentucky lost some big scorers to graduation, but added a solid freshman class. The Wildcats are strong in the 200s of stroke and the 400 IM, and one of the highlights of their season was beating Georgia at a dual meet for the first time in program history. Despite the losses, they bring back a decent-sized group of big SEC scorers including Gillian Davey (84 2022 SEC points), Caitlin Brooks (75 2022 SEC points), Lauren Poole (68 SEC points), and Izzy Gati (48 SEC points).

They won their first SEC title in 2021 and last year pipped Alabama for second by just five points. To stay at the top of the conference, they’ll really need their first-year sprinters to step up: the Wildcats return zero SEC points in both the 50 and 100 freestyle, which isn’t such great news for their relays either.

They do have diving going for them, mainly in the form of Kyndal Knight, who’s in her fifth year and broke the program’s 3-meter record earlier this season by 20 points. She scored 78 points at SECs last year and the Wildcats will be counting on her for a similarly high total this year.

LSU – Maggie MacNeil (Gr – free/fly/back), Montserrat Lavenant (Jr – diving), Helle Tuxen (Jr – diving), Chiara Pellacani (So – diving)

Maggie Macneil‘s value to LSU cannot be overstated. While she’s sure to be focused on the NCAA championships, she’ll be a force at SECs, and is a good bet for three individual event wins. She’s top of the conference in the 50 free (21.03), 100 free (47.43), and 100 fly (49.40). She’s also been a huge boost to their relays, swimming some of the fastest splits of all-time and helping LSU qualify two relays to NCAAs, their first relay qualifications since 2016.

Supplementing their improvements in the pool is one of the strongest diving groups in the conference. Montserrat LavenantHelle Tuxen, and Chiara Pellacani were the team’s three highest scorers, combining for a whopping 214 points. All three are back on the boards for the Tigers this year which is huge for LSU as they look to separate themselves from the rest of the teams at the bottom of the conference.

Missouri – Meredith Rees (Sr- back/free), Kamryn Wong (Fr – diving), Amy Feddersen (Sr – free/back)

Sarah Thompson has graduated and Missouri faces the difficult task of replacing her 78.5 individual points from 2022 SECs, to say nothing of her four relay legs. Stepping up on the relays is a role that falls to senior Amy FeddersenHowever, Feddersen appeared in a ‘B’ and two ‘C’ finals last year (25 points) so it’s unrealistic to expect her to replace Thompson’s individual points.

Where Mizzou stands to gain points is in diving. Freshman Kamryn Wong has been great for the Tigers on the boards through the regular season, and if can score on all three that will alleviate some of the sting of losing Thompson.

Meredith Rees isn’t a sprinter so she likely isn’t an answer on the relays, but she brings in big points of her own through her prowess in backstroke and fly. Last year, she was Missouri’s only NCAA All-American in an individual event after she earned an honorable mention for finishing 16th in the 100 back. 

Mizzou finished ninth in 2022, 25.5 points ahead of South Carolina. This year, they project to have trouble retaining that distance from a South Carolina team that’s built some momentum.

South Carolina – Victoria Kwan (Gr – IM/fly ), Brooke Schultz (Gr – diving), Melinda Novoszath (Jr – free/fly), Bella Pantano (Jr – back)

Brooke Schultz staying with the Gamecocks for a fifth-year is huge. She was the 2022 SEC Championships Diver of the Meet and the 2022 SEC Co-Diver of the Year. She scored 64 points on the boards last year, the most on the team by a wide margin.

South Carolina coach Jeff Poppell is in his second season with the team, and he brought in a pair of fifth-year transfers Victoria Kwan (Michigan) and Tatiana Salcutan (Louisville) who have the potential to add to the Gamecock’s point total; Kwan would have made three ‘A’ finals last year, and Salcutan a ‘C’ final. Additionally, they have a big class of eight freshmen who could make some noise as well.

They’re also gaining momentum from their returning swimmers. Junior Bella Pantano set a program record in the 100 back (53.26), which puts her right on the edge of making the ‘B’ final.

With energy coming both from first-years and returners, South Carolina will look to take advantage of some other team’s losses to move up from 10th in the standings.

Tennessee – Mona McSharry (Jr – breast), Kristen Stege (Sr – free), Sara Stotler (So – free/fly/IM), Josephine Fuller (So – back/IM)

Tennessee reclaimed the SEC title going away last year, beating second-place Kentucky by 270.5 points. This year’s title defense projects to be a much tighter race. Publicly, the Lady Vols season has been defined by their many absences and indeed with Ellen Walshe swimming in a European meet this weekend, it looks like the team will be without their 3x SEC champion.

In 2022, the top-scoring class of the meet was the Tennessee freshmen, in large part due to Walshe. But Sara Stotler, who contributed 71 points, is in Knoxville this season and has been solid. Josephine Fuller is a part of that class as well and has exploded this season. She sits top of the conference (and second in the NCAA) in the 200 back with a 1:50.12. Last year, she won the ‘B’ final but this year she’ll be pushing for a spot on the podium so look for her to score more than the 57 points she did last year.

There’s been more good news in the form of Kristen Stege, who returned and seemed not to miss a beat, posting the top 1650 free time in the NCAA this season (15:57.01).

The Vols will surely miss Walshe and the others missing from their roster, but given that they’ve also shored up their weakest event–platform diving– in the form of 2022 champion Tanesha Lucoe, they’ll be back in the thick of the title fight.

Texas A&M – Chloe Stepanek (Jr – free), Olivia Theall (Jr – free/fly), Aviv Barzelay (So – back), Bobbi Kennett (Jr – free/breast)

Chloe Stepanek headlines this Texas A&M team. She scored 50 points last year, finishing 3rd in the 200 free, 13th in the 500 free, and 17th in the 100 free. Now a junior, she looks set to score even more, as she’s been faster this season than she was at SECs in both the 200 and 500 free with season-bests of 1:43.82 and 4:43.68 and just off in the 100 free (47.94).

She’s backed by a solid group of returners, including Olivia TheallAviv Barzelay, and Bobbi Kennett. Those three all scored 30+ points at SECs last year, and will be needed for similar points again this year.

Texas A&M has been floating in the middle of the conference; last year, 41 points ahead of seventh-place Auburn and 280 points behind fifth-place Florida. This is a precarious position for them to be in, as teams behind them like Auburn and LSU are rising quickly, and they don’t really have the firepower to make the jump to the top half of the standings. Instead, they’ll be in a fight to maintain their spot in the murky middle of the SEC.

Vanderbilt — Kailia Utley (So – fly/back), Faith Knelson (Jr – breast), Jenna Ravarino (Fr – free), Ellie Taliaferro (Fr – free)

Vanderbilt finished at the bottom of the SEC in 2022, 274 points behind eleventh-place Arkansas. Their 400 medley relay got disqualified, which didn’t help their points total, especially because all but three of their points came from relays. Those three points were scored by then-freshman Kailia Utley, who made the ‘C’ final of the 200 butterfly.

Breaststroker Faith Knelson arrived on campus in the spring of 2022 after transferring from Arizona. She didn’t hit her lifetime bests at SECs, but if she had, she would have scored in the 100 breast. It will be interesting to see if she can get close to her times with a full year at Vanderbilt under her belt and give the team a scoring boost. This season, she’s been as fast as 1:01.61 in the 100 breast, and swam a lifetime best 2:14.06 in the 200 breast. 

They also have freshmen Jenna Ravarino and Ellie Taliaferro, a sprint freestylers who are a boost to their relays. While they have some ground to make up to climb out of last place, they’re beginning to gain some momentum–the question is if they’ll be able to capitalize on it.


1650 Freestyle — When 2022 SEC champion Kristen Stege took over the NCAA’s top time in the mile, she did so by swimming only eight one-hundredths faster than Georgia’s Abby McCullohHaving a race that close in the mile would be incredible, but we don’t think that they’ll be the only two vying for the title. Kensey McMahon, last year’s runner-up, is lurking with a season-best of 15:59.10. McCulloh’s teammate Dune Coetzeea sophomore, could get in on the action as well–she swam a lifetime best of 16:03.09 at Georgia’s last dual meet and if she breaks 16 minutes, she and McCulloh could bring in big points for the Dawgs. This is to say nothing of Olympian Emma Weyantwho swam 16:08.24 at a dual versus Florida State, which is faster than she swam at NCAAs last season.

400 IM — Texas A&M freshman Giulia Goerigk has established herself as the swimmer to beat in the 400 IM, soaring to a lifetime best of 4:05.75 at midseason to lead the conference and slot in third in the NCAA. She’s more than a second ahead of the rest of her conference field, but she’s far from locked up the title. That’s because, behind her, Lauren PooleGillian Davey, and Mabel Zavaros are all ranked 6-9 in the NCAA and are sure to have saved their big swims for championship season. Currently, Poole, Davey, and Zavaros are separated by just .28 seconds, promising another close race in a longer event. As in the 1650 freestyle, there’s Weyant to factor in as well. She’s “just” been 4:10.60 this season but we know she can be much faster than that. Her time of 4:03.17 from 2022 NCAAs would have put her second last year at this meet, behind the absent Ellen Walshe

200 Freestyle — Get set for a head-to-head between Tennessee’s Brooklyn Douthwright and Texas A&M’s Chloe Stepanek. As a freshman, Douthwright beat Stepanek out for second place last year, 1:43.45 to 1:44.15. They both have a clear shot at the title this year, and have similar season bests, with Douthwright at 1:43.60 and Stepanek at 1:43.83. We talked about Stepanek earlier in this preview, and if she’s back on her game, she could really produce something special at this meet. That’s not to count out Douthwright, who’s been a bright part of Tennessee’s season and has been right on her best already.

SwimSwam Picks

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

The outcome of women’s SECs is much harder to predict than the men’s race. The meet simulator predicts that it’s the Florida Gators that will come out on top. The Gators are predicted to have a big enough gap over their rivals that it seems as though they’re on track for their first women’s SEC crown since 2009.

The defending champions from Tennessee look like a good bet to remain in the top-two, but Floria might just be too much for them this year.

Note that the simulator uses diving scores done throughout the season, which isn’t necessarily consistent across meets and as black-and-white as swimming times when comparing athletes.

Kentucky doesn’t have much sprinting, but they do have diving and they’ve proven themselves at this meet the last couple of years. On paper, it seems that they above all the other teams at this meet have the most to gain from Alabama’s losses, since they won’t have to fight it out with the Tide for a top-three finish.

They will have to deal with both Georgia and Auburn, though. The meet simulator has those teams separated by just 11 points, with Auburn and Georgia ahead of Kentucky. We’ll give the edge to Kentucky, though it will ultimately come down to who shows up the best and most consistently. SECs is a long meet, and sustaining energy through to the final session will be crucial.

But just how far will Alabama fall? We expect them to drop from third to the middle of the conference, and likely engage in a battle with the home team for the middle of the conference. You could worry about them being caught by teams like Arkansas and LSU, but they still have the depth that’s missing from those two teams and the bottom half of the conference at large.

Given their huge fifth-year crew and the addition of Wizard, Arkansas should get a bump in the standings this season, but don’t expect it to be a sustained, multi-season effort. That will likely come from South Carolina, a team that’s built up some momentum and will likely carry it through to future seasons, even if they hold their place in the standings this year.

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Old Bruin
1 year ago

Tennessee needs a cease and desist with that photo LOL

1 year ago

Can anyone shed light on MacNeill’s business in LSU?
Do they have a big time research program in the field she’s studying or something? Because athletically it doesn’t seem to make much sense…

Reply to  Bud
1 year ago

Her results say athletically, she’s doing just fine.

Reply to  VFL
1 year ago

Of course she’s doing fine but wouldn’t she do better with more competition in practice?

Reply to  Bud
1 year ago

She’s with the coach that coached her to Olympic gold. How does that not make sense athletically?

Reply to  Bud
1 year ago

Her former coach at the University of Michigan Rick Bishop is now the head coach at LSU.

K Chilly
1 year ago

I love the use of colored text for the different teams! SwimSwam is evolving in a way I am a fan of.

Reply to  K Chilly
1 year ago


(But also we’ve been doing that for years! in these previews!)

1 year ago

LSU placing worse than last year WITH maggie?? Interesting take

1 year ago

Have they released a psych sheet yet?

Reply to  Kachow
1 year ago

For real

Reply to  Kachow
1 year ago


Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Come on Aggies!

1 year ago

Plus adding Izzy Ivery + Bella Simms next year!
Go Gatas!

Sherry Smit
1 year ago


Last edited 1 year ago by Sherry Smit
Just sayin’
1 year ago

Where is Summer Smith?

Reply to  Just sayin’
1 year ago

She’s been out all season. No report.

Sherry Smit
Reply to  Just sayin’
1 year ago

I believe she is redshirting, focusing on OW nationals in april

Reply to  Sherry Smit
1 year ago

Thanks for info!

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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