2024 Men’s SEC Fan Guide: Gators Set For 12th Straight Title, 4-Team Battle For 2nd Brewing

2024 SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS – MEN

EVENT SCHEDULE

Monday

  • Women’s diving team event
  • Men’s 1-meter diving

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

  • 200 freestyle relay
  • 500 freestyle
  • 200 IM
  • 50 freestyle
  • Men’s 3-meter diving

Thursday

  • 400 IM
  • 100 butterfly
  • 200 freestyle
  • Women’s 1-meter diving

Friday

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

Saturday

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

2023 FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Florida — 1488.5
  2. Auburn — 1089.5
  3. Tennessee — 1035.5
  4. Texas A&M — 1018
  5. Georgia — 828.5
  6. Missouri — 725.5
  7. Alabama — 667
  8. Kentucky — 514
  9. South Carolina — 458.5
  10. LSU — 337

Last season, Florida won their 11th consecutive SEC title in dominant fashion, racking up 1488.5 points–the most they’ve scored during their streak. They beat Auburn by 399 points, which is their second largest margin of victory during these 11 years. 

The Gators may have won the SEC title going away last year, but three other teams–Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M–also cracked 1,000 points. Those three teams were separated by just 71.5 points, promising another close race for second this season, especially as Georgia looks prepared to join the fray. 

Swimmers to Watch

Alabama – Charlie Hawke (Jr – free), Kaique Alves (Jr — free/fly), Tommy Hagar (Fr — back), Eric Stelmar (Sr — back)

Coming into the season, there were more questions than answers for Alabama. After finishing 2nd in 2022, they’d fell to 7th in 2023 and had major turnover both in the pool and on deck during the offseason. It doesn’t look like they’ll be able to compete with the conference’s top teams, but there are still reasons for the Crimson Tide to be optimistic about performances at these championships.

That’s thanks to their 200 freestyle duo of Charlie Hawke and Kaique Alves. Hawke turned heads last season when he won the SEC 200 freestyle title in 1:31.20 and earned the first NCAA invite of his career. Coming into 2024 SECs, Hawke once again finds himself at the top of the conference thanks to his 1:31.30 from midseason. He’s not alone at the top either as his teammate Alves sits 2nd with his 1:31.97 personal best from midseason. Alves was also in the 2023 ‘A’ final and looks ready to do better than 7th place.

Hawke and Alves both swam multiple PBs at midseason. In addition to his 200 free PB, Alves clocked 42.36 in the 100 free (9th seed). Meanwhile, Hawke swam personal bests in the 100 free (42.31) and 500 free (4:12.91), which put him 8th and 4th seed, respectively.

Beyond Hawke and Alves, their stroke groups could also contribute some points, particularly their backstroke squad of Eric Stelmar, Tommy Hagarand Jake Marcum. Stelmar and Marcum both scored at 2023 SECs. Hagar is a freshman and his 1:41.65 PB from midseason has him seeded 9th in the 200 back making him the highest seeded Alabama swimmer behind Hawke and Alves.

Auburn – Aidan Stoffle (Gr – fly/back), Nate Stoffle (Jr – fly/back), Mason Mathias (Jr — free), Logan Tirheimer (Sr — free/fly)

Auburn took big steps forward in their rebuild last season. They finished 2nd at SECs, notching their highest finish since 2016, then went on to take 10th at NCAAs. So one of the big questions for them heading into this meet is whether last season was a flash in the pan or something they can sustain.

Their two highest returning points scorers from 2023 are brothers and fly/back specialists Aidan Stoffle and Nate Stoffle. Both made two ‘A’ finals and one ‘B’ final in 2023; A. Stoffle finished 5th in the 100 fly, 10th in the 200 back, and 4th in the 200 back. Meanwhile, his younger brother took 11th in the 100 fly, 2nd in the 100 back, and 7th in the 200 back.

Both have made improvements in their 2023 ‘B’ final events that make them legitimate contenders for three ‘A’ finals. A. Stoffle broke 45 seconds in the 100 back for the first time in his career at the Georgia Fall Invitational and currently ranks 3rd in the SEC (44.98). For his part, N. Stoffle dropped a 46.05 100 fly which makes him 5th seed.

Auburn’s also seen an improvement in their freestyle groups which started last season with Mason Mathias and Michael Bonson. Mathias has been steadily improving in this event over the last year and at the Georgia Fall Invite he lowered his own program record to 4:11.03 which still holds as the 2nd fastest time in the SEC this season.

Relays have been a focus for the Tigers during their rebuild. At 2023 SECs, they earned 266 points from relays, the third most in the conference. It’s going to be important for them to keep that number high as they battle with Tennessee and Texas A&M for 2nd place. Sprint freestyle has been a weak spot on the national level for Auburn but here at the conference level swimmers like Kalle Makinen and Logan Tirheimer are crucial for Auburn’s success, as is breaststroker Henry Bethel

Florida – Josh Liendo (So – free/fly), Jake Mitchell (Sr — free), Adam Chaney (Sr – free/back), Macguire McDuff (Jr – free) 

The Gator men are the powerhouse of the SEC and they’ve got speed and depth in spades. Nine of their top ten individual points scorers from 2023 SECs are still on the roster. And the talented newcomers like Jonny Marshall and Scotty Buff shouldn’t be forgotten about either. That makes it a challenge to narrow down the swimmers on their roster to watch–so many of them will play an active role in earning points for their team.

In his freshman year, Josh Liendo was Florida’s top individual point scorer, racking up 88 points and playing a key role on their relays. He spoke to SwimSwam early in the season and talked about how he’s only gotten more comfortable with yards this season. That’s evident from the times he threw down at midseason, starting with the 40.90 that leads the NCAA. His 18.61 50 free is #2 behind only Jordan Crooks and he’s back on top of the SEC in the 100 fly with a 44.39.

He, backstroker Adam Chaney, and sprinter Macguire McDuff will be busy for Florida this week. Chaney is looking for his 3rd straight individual 100 back title and McDuff cemented himself last season as their go-to relay anchor. McDuff also sits 4th in the SEC in the 50/100 freestyle with season-bests 19.28/41.85.

Like Liendo, Chaney, and McDuff, Jake Mitchell was top 5 in individual scoring for the Gators at 2023 SECs. He earned 73 points and won the 500 freestyle. He’s seeded 3rd in that event and is also 6th in the 1650 and has shown consistently that he can be faster than his 15:00.81 season-best.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg for the Gators, which makes them the heavy favorites for another SEC title.

Georgia – Jake Magahey (Sr – free), Ian Grum (Gr – back/free), Bradley Dunham (Gr – back), Ruard van Renen (So — back)

The Georgia Bulldogs have a huge class of fifth-years, which is a boost for them as this class was their highest scoring group at the 2023 SEC Championships, earning 238.5 individual points. Bradley Dunham earned their only individual SEC title of the meet (200 back and led the way for the Dawgs with 81 individual points. Currently, Dunham sits 3rd in the SEC with a personal best 1:38.80 from midseason.

So, Georgia’s got a high-scoring group of fifth-years that includes Ian Grum and Dillon Downing. Senior Jake Magahey returns as well and is still looking for his first SEC title in the 500 free (the event he won an NCAA title in). Magahey has been known as a 200/500/1650 freestyler but this year he’s made an intriguing progress in the 200 fly. Over the course of the season he’s swum multiple personal bests, getting all the way down to 1:41.81, 2nd in the SEC by just .03 seconds.

Even with their strong returning group, it’s transfer sophomore Ruard van Renen who could potentially do the most damage for the Dawgs. After being the top scoring mid-major swimmer at 2023 NCAAs, van Renen transferred to Georgia this fall. It’s a move that’s paid off to the tune of personal bests of 19.53/44.50/46.07 in the 50 free/100 back/100 fly. His 100 backstroke ranks 1st in the SEC.

He’s sitting 11th in the 200 backstroke but since Georgia already has a deep 200 backstroke group (4 swimmers ranked in the SEC’s top-10), there’s an opportunity for van Renen to focus on the sprints if he wants. The progress he’s seen in that area makes him a valuable relay piece on top of his potential in his individual events.

Kentucky – Levi Sandidge (So – distance free/IM), Max Berg (Sr – free/IM), Zane Rosely (Sr — fly/IM), Ryan Merani (So — fly/IM)

Levi Sandidge had a strong freshman campaign for the Wildcats which peaked at SECs when he became Kentucky’s first man to win the 1650 freestyle. Sandidge swam a huge personal best of 14:31.47 for the medal. This season, he’s seeded 2nd behind Florida’s Gio Linscheer with the 14:44.89 he swam at the Kentucky vs. Alabama dual meet.

It was a tumultuous offseason for the Wildcats, which ended with them getting a new head coach in Bret Lundgaard after coaching controversy. As with any new head coach, there are questions around about how the first championship taper will go. As such, Lundgaard will be counting on the top scorers from last season: Max Berg (67 points), Sandidge (41), and Zane Rosely (43 points) to set the standard.

Sophomore Ryan Merani has had a great season for the Wildcats making big improvements especially in the 200 fly. Merani lowered his PB multiple times this season, bringing it all the way to 1:42.50, which puts him #2 all-time at Kentucky and #3 on the psych sheet. Merani is also seeded 13th in the 400 IM with a season-best 3:45.98

LSU – Mitch Mason (Sr – breast), Jere Hribar (Fr — free), Pawel Uryniuk (So — fly/free)

Only three men scored individually for LSU last season. Their top scorer, Brooks Curry, has since graduated, which means the Tigers are without their most reliable threat for three ‘A’ finals and 70+ points. It’s breaststroker Mitch Mason who is returning with the most points (24) from 2023 SECs. As a freshman, Pawel Uryniuk brought in 4 courtesy of his 18th place finish in the 100 fly.

Mason has a personal best of 52.05 in the 100 breast. This season, he’s been 52.19, which is a positive sign for LSU as that’s already faster than he was at 2023 SECs. He’s seeded 5th in the event and it would go a long way for them if he could make that ‘A’ final. He’s seeded 8th in the 200 breast as well, with a season-best of 1:54.82 that’s less than two-tenths off his personal best.

In Curry’s absence, LSU has turned to freshman Jere Hribar to be their go-to sprinter. Hribar has been a welcome surprise for the Tigers this season as he adjusts to his first time in yards swimming. Hribar has lowered his 50 freestyle PB to 19.39 from LSU’s dual against Tennessee, which gives him the 6th seed heading into the championships. Additionally, he’s 15th in the 100 free (42.97). Even without a true third event, expect Hribar to be a huge part of LSU’s push at these championships as he’ll surely be called on for multiple relays.

Missouri – Jan Zubik (So — fly/back), Grant Bochenski (Jr — back/free), Collier Dyer (So — diver), Calvin Windle (Jr — free/back)

Missouri got a reprieve from their rebuild last season thanks to fifth-years Jack Dahlgren and Clement Secchi, who both scored 70+ points. Breaststroker Ben Patton opted not to use his fifth-year, making it three 70+ point scorers that Missouri has lost ahead of this season.

Now squarely in a rebuild, there’s still plenty of things for these Tigers to be positive about. Jan Zubik has swum personal bests in five events this season. His best event is the 200 fly, where he’s seeded 5th in a season-best 1:43.26. He’s also on the edge of the ‘C’ final in the 100 back/100 fly.

Others in scoring position are Grant Bochenski, who’s dropped best times in both the 100/200 back this season, swimming 45.60/1:42.04. That 100 back time has him seeded 7th; if he can make the ‘A’ final that would be an improvement on his 13th place finish in 2023. Meanwhile, he’s seeded 12th in the 200 back and 17th in the 100 free, which puts him in a strong position to make three finals.

And after not scoring last season, junior Calvin Windle is hovering in scoring range in the 200 free (16th seed) and 100 back (21st seed). It’s a similar story for sophomore diver Collier Dyer. After not scoring on any board in 2023, Dyer is 3rd seed on platform and 7th in both 1- and 3-meter, which would be a huge boost for Missouri if he can replicate those seeds.

South Carolina – Michael Laitarovsky (Jr – back), Max Spencer (Fr — diving), Charley Bayer (So — diving), Connor Fry (Fr — free)

South Carolina finished 9th at 2023 SECs, beating LSU by 121.5 points. That represents a huge accomplishment for the Gamecocks: in 2021, they were 200 points out of 9th place, then closed the gap to 87.5 points in 2022.

They’re going to have to work hard to maintain that place in the standings though as they’ve graduated their top scorer, diver Manny Vazquez Baswho earned 75 points on the boards last season. They don’t really have one diver who will immediately replace those points but they can try to recreate Bas’ contributions in the aggregate. Sophomore Charley Bayer scored 23 points in 2023, and freshman diver Max Spencer is seeded to make the ‘A’ flight on all three boards. That would go a long way for the Gamecocks.

In the pool, the bulk of their points will likely come from Michael Laitarovsky. As a sophomore, Laitarovsky broke the 100 back school record multiple times, lowering the mark to the 45.27 he swam to finished 3rd. He’s seeded at 12th in 46.27, which he’ll need to improve to make the ‘A’ final (In 2023, it took 45.63).

There are many Gamecock swimmers who are seeded on the cusp of making the ‘C’ final so they’ll need to swim well in prelims to contribute points. Their highest seeded swimmer isn’t actually Laitarovsky, it is distance freestyler Connor Fry. Fry swam a personal best 15:05.08 in the 1650 free at the Gamecock Invitational which puts him as the 11th seed.

Tennessee – Jordan Crooks (Jr – free/fly), Gui Caribe (So – free/fly), Bryden Hattie (Sr — diving), Landon Driggers (Jr — IM)

Together, Jordan Crooks and Gui Caribe form one of the best sprinting duos in the NCAA. It was at this meet last year that Crooks became just the second person to crack the 18-second barrier in the 50 free (17.93), joining Caeleb Dressel’s exclusive club. He’s been 18.40 already this season, making him the fastest man in the NCAA, .21 seconds faster than Liendo. Crooks also ranks 2nd in the SEC in the 100 free (41.03), 3rd in the 100 fly (45.18), and swam an intriguing 1:32.07 200 freestyle at midseason (3rd in SEC). He probably won’t race the 200 free individually, but he should be right at the top of the conference in his three primary events as he battles Liendo. 

Caribe has had a quieter sophomore season than he did as a freshman. He’d already broken 19 seconds in the 50 free before conference last season and this year his season-best is 19.27. Despite that, there’s no reason to expect that he won’t show up at SECs and be an ‘A’ final factor in the 50/100 free.

Though he hasn’t had quite the same burst that Crooks and Caribe had in their freshman seasons yet, Nickoli Blackman is another young international sprinter. He’s got a world junior title to his name and this could be the meet he begins to make his mark in the NCAA.

Crooks and Caribe are also key for the Vols relays. Last year, they helped snap Florida’s relay win streak, opening the meet with a 200 medley relay win and also taking the 400 free relay to close out the meet. Beyond their star sprinters, Tennessee’s seen solid returns from swimmers like Landon Driggers, Martin Espernberger, Nick Simonsand Bjoern Kammann. Getting strong performances from their depth swimmers is necessary if the Vols want to be in the hunt at the top of the standings.

Speaking of keys to finishing highly in the standings, diving is going to be especially important this season. For the Vols, that means Bryden Hattie performing well is essential. As a junior, Hattie scored 92 points and won both the 3-meter and platform events.

Texas A&M – Baylor Nelson (So – IM/back), Alex Sanchez (Sr – breast/fly), Victor Povzner (Jr — diving), Rhett Hensley (Jr — diving)

From an individual points perspective, Texas A&M has a huge advantage over the other teams hoping to finish high in the standings. They return all of the 693 individual points they scored last year.

Their IM crew and their divers are their biggest assets. Freshman Baylor Nelson led their team with 92 individual points in 2023. This year, he’s got the top IM times in the conference (1:41.33/3:38.33) which sets him up well to defend both titles. Logan Brown‘s 200 IM ranks #2 in the SEC (1:43.07). Alex Sanchez, who leads the conference in the 200 breast (1:51.13), also sits 9th in the 200 IM (1:44.42). Vincent Ribeiro is also a breaststroker/IM’er, adding even more firepower to the Aggies’ depth in those areas. 

Diving is their other big strength. In 2023, they scored 196 points on the boards, the most of any school. Their four scoring divers Rhett Hensley, Victor Povzner (2023 1-meter champion), Takuto Endo, and Allen Bottego all return. 129 of those points came from the 1-meter, where these four men went 1-3-4-6. Continuing to score highly on the boards will be crucial to offset their weakness: the relays.

The Aggies scored 246 points across the relays, lowest among the top six teams. Unfortunately for them, the relays are exactly where their rivals Tennessee and Auburn shine. They have made some progress in this area this year, specifically in the medley relays where they rank #3 in the conference. If they can hold those rankings and improve in the freestyle relays, especially the 400 free relay where they’re ranked #10, then there’s a real path for them to finish 2nd in the standings. 

Showdowns

100 Freestyle — It feels like cheating to just write “anytime Crooks and Liendo go head to head” so we’ll actually pick one event. We’ve gone with the 100 free, though there’s obviously plenty of reasons to pick the 50 free or even the 100 fly as your most anticipated battle between the two. This should come down to a race between the Gator and the Vol as they’ve already separated themselves from the rest of the conference (Caribe is 3rd seed in 41.66). Liendo leads the way in 40.90 with Crooks at 41.03. Crooks got the better of Liendo last season by just five-hundredths though Liendo returned the favor at NCAAs. On the last day of the meet, this is going to come down to who wants it the most.

100 Backstroke — van Renen, one of Georgia’s transfers this season, owns the top time in the men’s 100 back thanks to his personal best 44.50 from midseason. That gives him over a four-tenths lead over N. Stoffle (44.93) and A. Stoffle (44.98), the pair of brothers from Auburn seeded 2nd and 3rd. All three will have to find a way to stay in front of Adam Chaney, who has won this event at the last two SEC Championships and has the fastest PB in the field (44.17). Last year, Chaney was the only swimmer sub-45 in the individual event but now it may take breaking that barrier to get on the podium–it certainly won’t guarantee a win.

200 Medley Relay — In 2023, Tennessee opened the meet with a statement. Crooks popped a jaw-dropping 18.90 50 fly split and the Volunteers snapped Florida’s relay winning streak. Can they keep the title in Knoxville for another year? Florida owns the fastest time of the season with a 1:22.95, but Tennessee is lurking (1:23.14) and Texas A&M have forced their way into the conversation (1:23.83). The top three teams are separated by less than a second, and Auburn isn’t too far off getting in the mix with their 1:24.04. With the teams expected to be in the race for the top 4 all in the hunt for the first swimming title of the meet, this race could set the tone for the rest of the meet.

SwimSwam Picks

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

Florida is the clear favorite. Barring disaster, they should win their 12th straight SEC title. It’s less clear after that, though. The Swimulator  thinks it’s Auburn that comes out ahead in the race for second, ahead of Georgia, Texas A&M, and Tennessee in that order.

But the Swimulator doesn’t account for diving, which is exactly where this race for 2nd is likely going to be won (there or the relays). Given the Aggies’ advantage on the boards, we’ll take them to earn 2nd place ahead of Auburn. It also feels like Tennessee has more to give than their predicted 5th place finish. We’ve put them ahead of Georgia in our predictions but the moral of the story here is that even though Florida may run away with the title, the race for 2nd may come down to the final race and 2nd through 5th may be separated by only a handful of points.

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HereForTheMems
1 month ago

Put some respect on Bama, that staff is doing great things

Old Bruin
1 month ago

Shoutout to the editors: The color-coded guide to the teams is a small detail that I appreciate very much!

JohnH
1 month ago

With UT joining the conference next year, it makes me wish we could have seen conference matchups with some of those stacked longhorn teams of the last decade competing at SECs.

John
Reply to  JohnH
1 month ago

UT’s already in the conference 👀

MarshFAN
1 month ago

The Vols are poised to finish solidly in 2nd – Relay strength, diving key and distance men can factor in for TN.

Big fella
1 month ago

Flynn crisci gonna drop some top 8 national times this week

Andrew
1 month ago

Florida is the perfect conference team but they didn’t have enough individual scorers last year to crack top 5.

Someone else other than Liendo needs to show up individually at NCs

Mike
Reply to  Andrew
1 month ago

Will be interesting to see if their strategy is different this year.

I miss the ISL
1 month ago

As a Dawgs fan, its moments like these that Luca’s olympic redshirt really hurts :'(
Who knows if he’ll even come back next year, but him combined with the rest of those 5th years probably would solidly put them in 2nd.

Diehard
Reply to  I miss the ISL
1 month ago

I think UGA could still be 2nd this year! Luca hasn’t been a Dawg for a while and probably won’t be again….so gotta move on!

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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