AUBURN, Ala.– Having won a combined 23 SEC swimming and diving championships, Auburn’s men’s and women’s teams are in Columbia, Mo., for the 2016 Championships this week, which run Tuesday through Saturday at the Mizzou Aquatic Center.
“The expectation is just to perform as a team,” Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. “We want to better than we were last year. We put a real lot of emphasis on staying in the moment, controlling what we can control and really making a decision to be a great team.”
Auburn’s men have won 18 of the past 22 titles while the women have won five conference titles, the last coming in 2008. The men finished third last year while the women are coming off of a sixth-place finish.
Auburn takes a number six national ranking into the men’s meet and is ranked No. 11 on the women’s side. The conference meet is loaded with talent, however, as the SEC boasts eight teams in both the men’s and women’s Top 25.
“Florida is the reigning (men’s) SEC Champions and we have a tough task ahead to try and beat them and knock them off,” Hawke said. “They should be the favorite and in my mine the absolutely are the favorite. Georgia’s team on the men’s side is really good as well. It’s going to be a very tight battle. I think it’s going to come down to the last day.”
What and Who to Watch
Annie Lazor and Natasha Lloyd
Auburn’s breaststroke duo has been a force this season. Lazor has been a front-runner in the 200 distance all season, winning the event four times, while Lloyd has captured the 100 once – but the two have finished 1-2 or 2-3 eight times this season. Lazor’s top 200 time of 2:08.47 is the third-best in the conference this season while her 100 time of 59.76 is fourth. Lloyd takes the seventh-best 200 time (2:10.00) and the eighth-best 100 time (1:00.63) into the week.
Ashley Neidigh & Zoe Thatcher
Thanks to Neidigh and Thatcher, Auburn has a chance to grab some valuable points in the distance freestyle events. Thatcher rang up the fourth-fastest 500 in the conference this year (4:41.42) and the ninth-best mile (16:16.77) while Neidigh has the fifth-fastest mile (16:14.69) and the 11th-best 500 (4:43.15).
The senior women
Lazor, Alex Merritt, Sarah Reynolds and Jillian Vitarius have been huge components to the women’s team this season. Vitarius twice swept the backstroke events in dual meets while Merritt and Reynolds have a combined six NCAA provisional times heading into the meet.
Duderstadt has been a Duder-stud this season. The junior has won the 100 breast five times, the 200 breast twice and the 100 free once. He has also been a part of six winning relays. Three of his top times rank in the top six in the conference – 100 breast – 52.14/3rd; 50 free – 19.71/5th; 200 breast – 1:57.38/6th.
Patching has been Mr. Versatility for Auburn this year, winning five different events a total of 10 different times. The junior has claimed wins in the 200 free, both backstrokes and both IMs.
Head diving coach Jeff Shaffer’s group has a chance to have a big impact on the men’s race. Senior Justin Youtsey has dominated the springboard events, winning the 1-meter six times and the 3-meter twice while freshman Scott Lazeroff has won the 3-meter once and the platform twice.
The sprint freestyle events
The 50 and the 100 free are the most exciting races in all of swimming, and this year figures to hold onto that title. In the women’s race, Auburn has three of the top 10 in the 50 (Ashton Ellzey – 22.20/4th, Allyx Purcell – 22.40/7th, Aly Tetzloff – 22.55/10th) and three of the top 16 in the 100 (Tetzloff – 48.67/7th, Purcell 49.20/14th, Ellzey – 49.48/16th). The numbers are even more impressive in the men’s lanes where Auburn has three of the top eight in the 50 (Peter Holoda – 19.71/5th, Duderstadt – 19.71/5th, Kyle Darmody – 19.84/8th) and four of the top 15 in the 100 (Holoda 42.45/3rd, Darmody – 43.53/7th, Duderstadt 43.89/13th, Jacob Molacek – 43.97/15th). Auburn’s men have won the 50 free 19 times since 1980, including 14 of the past 19 years.
“It really comes down to balance within the group to try and win the championship,” Hawke said. “Everybody is going to play a key role. It’s just going to come down to everybody performing together and trying to score as many points as we can.
The SEC Championships will be broadcast live on SEC Network+. A one-hour wrap-up show will air on the
SEC Network in March.
Swimming news courtesy of Auburn Swimming & Diving.