Auburn, Led by “Distance Coach” Gary Taylor, Swims 2nd-Best 200 Free Relay Ever

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 23

February 19th, 2020 College, News, SEC


When Gary Taylor arrived as the new head coach at Auburn in the summer of 2018, more-than-one Auburn alumni expressed concern in private over his reputation as a distance coach. While Taylor came to the program from NC State, which was already building a reputation as a top-tier sprint program, Taylor coached the distance swimmers. He had success there, of course, coaching NCAA Champions, but Auburn’s golden years under David Marsh were built around having the world’s best sprint program, and the belief that sprinting wins NCAA team titles, not distance.

Taylor embraced the need for sprint success early in his tenure at Auburn, and on Wednesday he validated that when the Auburn Tigers roared their way to a women’s SEC title in the 200 free relay, swimming a 1:25.41. That’s not only the 2nd-fastest 200 yard freestyle relay in NCAA history, but it crushed the Auburn school record.

Auburn Splits:

The old school record? That was set in Taylor’s first season as head coach, last year, when the Auburn women swam 1:27.05. Before that, the record had stood since 2009, when, in super suits and including Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace on the leadoff, Auburn swam 1:27.45.

This means that the Auburn school record in the women’s 200 free relay survived a full decade while the head coach of the program was sprint guru Brett Hawke. Hawke was in his final season as an assistant in 2009, where he led the sprint group, when they broke that record.

This highlights a point that collegiate coaches across the country make time-and-time again: the skillset required to coach a successful group at a big-time swimming school is a very different skillset than the one required to sit as the head coach of a major Power 5, co-ed swimming program. Not all coaches have both, but Taylor seems to be proving that he does, and has assembled a capable staff that includes sprint coach Gideon Luow, who coached Bowen Becker’s rise at Minnesota and who was a part of the legendary Auburn sprint tradition himself as an athlete, and Duncan Sherrard.

Another way to compare the improvements: there are two swimmers who were on Wednesday’s 200 free relay and were also on Auburn’s 200 free relay at the 2018 SEC Championships, the year before Taylor took over. As sophomores, Robyn Clevenger split 21.95 on a rolling start and Julie Meynen split 22.44 on a rolling start. This year, Clevenger split 21.62 on an anchor and Meynen split 21.65 on a leadoff leg.

5 Fastest NCAA Women’s 200 Yard Freestyle Relays:

  1. Cal, 2019 (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil) – 1:24.55
  2. Auburn, 2020 (Meynen, Fisch, Kutsch, Clevenger) – 1:25.41
  3. Stanford, 2018 (Hu, Manuel, Pitzer, Howe) – 1:25.43
  4. Cal, 2018 (Murphy, Bilquist, McLaughlin, Weitzeil) – 1:25.50
  5. Cal, 2017 (Weitzeil, Murphy, Bilquist, Osman) – 1:25.59

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ACC fan
1 year ago

Gary Taylor is a great coach! Great hire! Impressive relay. Congrats Auburn!

1 year ago

War Eagle! The Braden Holloway coaching tree is pretty exceptional.

Lane 8
1 year ago

Whoa, I almost forgot about that. Congrats Auburn!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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