The Georgia Bulldogs ran roughshod over SEC opponents Florida on Friday afternoon, combining for 23 event wins between men and women. Among the most damaging stats: Georgia put together 1-2-3 sweeps in 3 different events and went 1-2 in both of the women’s relays.
The Georgia women dominated enough to exhibition their final two events, including a 400 free relay where they put up the two fastest times.
You could tell the visiting Gators were in for a long day from the first event, when Georgia split its medley relays and nabbed the top two spots by a half-second margin. All Georgia really had to do was flip its two breaststrokers, sending Annie Zhu to the B and bumping Emily Cameron up to the A. Though Florida’s Lindsey McKnight actually outsplit both (McKnight was 28.26 for Florida to Zhu’s 28.80 and Cameron’s 29.04), the butterflyers easily made up the difference.
Freshman Kylie Stewart split 23.83 on the A while Lauren Harrington was 24.22 on the B. The duo combined to make Florida pay for using fly/free specialist Natalie Hinds on freestyle, outsplitting the Florida squad by well over a second on fly. Hinds wasn’t able to make up more than a tenth on the anchor leg and Georgia jumped to an early 15-2 lead in the points. The A relay was 1:40.90 and the B 1:40.97.
Amber McDermott won both distance races for Georgia, starting with the 1000 free, where she beat Jessica Thielmann 9:43.00 to 9:45.23. Then in the 500, McDermott once again topped Thielmann 4:46.79 to 4:48.66. Defending NCAA Champ Brittany MacLean was just 4th in that race at 4:53.98.
But the Bulldogs did most of their damage in backstroke and breaststroke. Kylie Stewart and Annie Zhu won the 100s of each stroke back-to-back early in the meet, with Stewart going 53.42 in the back and Zhu 1:02.98 in a 1-2 breaststroke finish. (Behind her, Emily Cameron beat Florida’s Lindsey McKnight by just .05).
In the 200s of each stroke, Georgia was even more devastating. Stewart went 1:55.54 to lead a 1-2 punch in the 200 back, and in the next event Zhu, Cameron and freshman Meaghan Raab went 1-2-3 in the 200 breast. Zhu led the way with a 2:15.16, absolutely crushing Florida in one of it’s weakest events.
The Gators were tough in the freestyles, though. Natalie Hinds won both the 50 and the 100, beating Georgia’s Maddie Locus. Hinds was 22.55 in the 50, then 49.37 in the 100. Meanwhile McKnight came off her medley relay leg to win the 200 free in 1:47.95, topping Georgia in a race it has traditionally been very strong in.
McKnight would also come back to win the 200 IM. Even though the meet was out of hand and Georgia was exhibitioning its swimmers, McKnight still fought hard, going 2:01.43 and winning a very tight race with Georgia’s Cameron.
Florida’s 5th win came in 1-meter diving, where Kahlia Warner scored 304.88 points. That avenged a loss in 3-meter earlier on to Georgia’s Olivia Ball. Ball nipped Warner by just .22 points, scoring 334.95 for the Bulldogs.
Though the event was exhibitioned, Georgia capped off its dominance with a 1-2 finish in the 400 free relay, meaning the ‘Dawgs swept both relay races. Chantal van Landeghem was 51.60 leading off one relay, with first-year Meaghan Raab going 51.68 on the front of the other team. Van Landeghem’s relay got a 51.29 from Maddie Locus, plus a 51.45 from freshman Kylie Stewart and went on to win in 3:26.41.
Other winners for Georgia: Hali Flickinger in the 200 fly (1:57.20 and another 1-2 finish) and Lauren Harrington in the 200 fly (a 54.13 to beat Florida’s stud Natalie Hinds).
Exhibitions and all, Georgia topped Florida by a crushing margin of 176-119, and these Bulldogs certainly look like they’ll be in the hunt for a third-straight NCAA title come the post-season.
The men, coming off a painful loss to NC State on the road a few weeks ago, were actually more dominating than the women, taking 12 total events and going 1-2-3 in a pair of them.
Maybe most impressive was the 200 fly, traditionally a dominant event for the Gators. But Georgia went 1-2-3 in the event to assert their dominance, led by versatile junior Chase Kalisz‘s 1:45.64. Kalisz was followed by freshman Mick Litherland (1:47.15) and sophomore Pace Clark (1:47.20). All three beat one of Florida’s top swimmers, Dan Wallace, who won a gold medal for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games over the summer.
That was the first of two wins for Kalisz. The sophomore beat out the 200 IM field late in the meet, going 1:47.13 and leading a 1-2 punch with rising star Gunnar Bentz.
The other big hitter for Georgia on Friday was junior Tynan Stewart, one of the veteran leaders on a fairly young squad. Stewart went off late in the meet, with both his wins coming after the first diving break. He led Georgia’s other 1-2-3 finish in the 200 back, going 1:45.17 with Jay Litherland and Jared Markham coming in behind. Then Stewart came back to crush the 100 fly in 47.91, yet another 1-2 finish for Georgia.
As with the women’s meet, Florida was at its best in the sprints, which is a bit of an identity shift for a program known for yardage and endurance. Freshman Caeleb Dressel won the 50 and 100 frees, which were matchups of Florida’s biggest freshman talent with Georgia’s most glaring weakness. Dressel was 20.06 to win, but in an encouraging sign for Georgia, Michael Trice was a season-best 20.16 for second place. The Bulldogs still aren’t deep enough in the sprints to put together truly threatening relays, but if they can get a guy under 20 seconds mid-season, they could at least be formidable in the individual 50 this year.
Dressel came back to win the 100 free in 44.35, topping Georgia’s Matias Koski by a tenth. Koski, typically known as a distance man, stepped down in yardage to try to fill Georgia’s weakness in the sprints, and filled in admirably. He also swam the 200 free, going 1:36.78 to nip Florida’s Pawel Werner (1:36.93).
Even with Koski leaving the 1000 free, Georgia was still fine in the distance race. Freshman Kevin Litherland picked up the slack, winning his own close race with Florida’s Mitch D’Arrigo 9:05.26 to 9:05.91.
Georgia won both relays with ease. In the 200 medley, each Bulldog put up the field’s fastest split in his own stroke to help the team blast a NCAA-leading 1:27.08. That team was Taylor Dale (22.01), Nic Fink (24.19), Pace Clark (21.26) and Michael Trice (19.62), with all four splits boding very well for the rest of the season. Trice’s 19.6, especially, suggests the team might have just enough sprint speed to get by in its weakest discipline.
In the 400 free relay, Trice led off in 44.54, a half-second faster than he was in the individual 100. That helped Georgia to a 2:58.42 win to close the evening.
Dale (100 back, 47.43) and Fink (200 breast, 1:56.74) also went on to win individual events. Fink’s breaststroke time ranks him #1 in the nation this year, and it served as a revenge win over Florida’s Matt Elliott after Elliott topped Fink in the 100 breast, 54.42 to 55.17. Elliott was 1:56.83 in that 200 breast, and now sits second in the national ranks.
Ian Forlini swept the diving events for Georgia, scoring 374.10 on 3-meter and 349.05 on 1-meter. The other individual winner was Florida’s Dan Wallace, who took the 500 free in 4:25.84 over 1000 free winner Kevin Litherland of Georgia.
All that added up to a 174.5-122.5 win for Bulldogs, who seem to be kicking it into another gear after dropping that road contest to NC State earlier this month.
Georgia is back in action next Friday against Georgia Tech and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) on the road. Florida, meanwhile, returns home to host the Minnesota Gophers next Saturday.