2019 SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Tuesday, February 19 – Saturday, February 23
- Gabrielsen Natatorium, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia (Eastern Time Zone)
- Defending Champion: Texas A&M Women (3x), Florida men (6x)(results)
- Live results
- Live Video – SEC Network
- Championship Central
Texas A&M junior Benjamin Walker made his first collegiate commitment to the University of Georgia. While he never wound up swimming for the Bulldogs, instead changing his commitment to the Aggies, there was obviously something about the Gabrielsen Natatorium that appealed to him.
And so the pool on the University of Georgia campus was a fitting backdrop for a moment of Texas A&M men’s swimming history. Walker won the 200 breaststroke on Saturday to close his SEC Championship meet in 1:52.55, and that made him the first male swimmer in program history to win an SEC title.
The Texas A&M women adapted to their new conference quickly when they arrived in the 2012-2013 season, and have won 4 consecutive SEC team titles to go with numerous individual championships. But the men, who previously were in a small 3-team Big 12 Conference, have taken a few more years to build their way toward the top.
Ford McLiney won the 2014 SEC titles on both the 3-meter sprinngboard and platform, but until Walker’s breakthrough swim on Saturday, the A&M swimming men had never been on top of the podium in their new conference.
Walker’s previous best time in the event was a 1:54.01 from NCAAs last year, meaning he dropped 1.5 seconds this week in Athens.
His rise has mirrored that of the A&M men’s team as a whole.
In their first 5 seasons in the SEC, the Aggies finished 7th, 7th, 8th, 8th, and 7th. Last season, though, there seemed to be a dramatic shift for the Aggies. Throughout their time in the SEC and before it, they’d developed a few swimmers who were competitive in the conference, put together some solid relays, and always had great divers. But in 2017-2018, it seemed like that success started to coalesce into something bigger, like a snowball rolling down the hill. The A&M men were showing up in more conference A finals, and more of those swimmers were finishing at the top of those finals.
Last season was the bit of a top of the hill for the A&M men, as they graduated a lot of their top swimmers. But this year, they’ll be rebuilding from a much higher valley, having brought in the 12th-ranked recruiting class in the country this season: a class that performed at least to that ranking, if not better. With a few veterans like Walker in the mix, the A&M men now have upward momentum again, with a lot of talent (including more domestic talent than they’ve had in the past) to carry the program to new heights.