2018 GEORGIA TECH INVITE
It was a strong first night of finals for the Florida freshman on the women’s side as they won 2 of the 3 individual events. Leah Braswell knocked over a second off her 500 free time, pulling ahead of Auburn freshman Emily Hetzer (4:39.18) on the back half to win in 4:37.83. That was Hetzer’s first time under 4:40 and a drop of over 3 seconds. Braswell looks very safe to make NCAAs already based on the 2018 invited time, while Hetzer is over a second under the cut line from last season as well.
The next Gator freshman to win was Vanessa Pearl in the 200 IM. Pearl was just .02 shy of her lifetime best to win it in 1:55.25. She had a close race with South Carolina’s Emma Barksdale (1:55.75), who took the early lead after fly, but Pearl pulled ahead on the back leg and held on to that lead. Both swimmers were well under the 2018 NCAA invited time, as was Florida’s Kelly Fertel (1:56.05). Auburn’s Bailey Nero (1:56.84) was just a tenth shy of that mark. The Gators picked up one more win to close the session with a 3:34.59 in the 400 medley relay.
Auburn’s Claire Fisch stopped the Gators’ individual sweep as she won the 50 free in 22.07. She was slightly faster to lead of Auburn’s winning 200 free relay (1:28.79), starting the Tigers off with a 22.05. The only sub-22 split in the field tonight came from Florida’s Sherridon Dressel with a 21.96 anchor.
On the men’s side, both Alabama (1:17.10) and Florida State (1:17.29) picked up an NCAA A cut in the 200 free relay. The big difference maker for the winning Crimson Tide squad was Robert Howard‘s 18.67 anchor leg. FSU got their fastest split from a freshman with Kuba Ksiazek going 19.09 on the 3rd leg. Bama’s Howard went on to win the individual 50 free in 19.23, clipping teammate Zane Waddell (19.27) as both cleared the 2018 NCAA invite time. Howard had another impressive split on the 400 medley relay, anchoring in 41.73.
Georgia Tech’s Caio Pumputis was the man to watch again in the 200 IM. After an impressive prelims performance, he dropped another second from his lifetime best tonight. Pumputis was neck-and-neck with Florida’s Grant Sanders (1:44.54) through the back leg, but really took off on the breast leg to win it in 1:42.89. He’s over a second under what it took to qualify for NCAAs in 2018. Another likely qualifier based on tonight’s times is Florida’s Khader Baqlah, who won the 500 free in 4:14.58 ahead of freshman teammate Trey Freeman (4:16.34).
Pumputis returned as a member of Georgia Tech’s winning 400 medley relay (3:06.87), contributing a 51.73 breast split. Rodrigo Correia led them off with a 45.53 back split, clearing last season’s 100 back NCAA invite by half a second.