Billy Rothery is an up-and-coming sprint talent who has opted to join the Georgia Bulldogs this Fall as part of the Class of 2017. Rothery swims for Tidal Wave Swimming and Harrison High School, which are both located in Kennesaw, Georgia. Rothery is a key late addition to the Dawgs’ roster, as he is clearly trending upward. At the 2017 SE Southern Premier meet this past March, Rothery tallied 8 best times, including the 50 free (21.20), 100 free (45.93), 200 free (1:41.04), 100 fly (49.89), 50 back (23.94), 100 back (52.43), 100 breast (59.75), and 200 I.M. (1:53.32). Rothery’s time in the 100 fly qualifies as a Winter Juniors cut. Notably, Rothery has already notched lifetime bests in the 50 free and 100 free long course meters earlier this month while still in-season.
Although perennially rich in I.M., butterfly, and distance freestyle talent, it’s no secret that the University of Georgia—at least on the men’s side—typically struggles to recruit freestyle sprinters. After graduating Michael Trice (19.16 50 free, 42.35 100 free) and Matias Koski (42.56 100 free) in 2016, the UGA men’s highest finisher in the 50 Free at the 2017 SEC Championships was John Mattern with a 21.11 (finishing 50th out of prelims). Their 200 free relay, which was forced to utilize 400 IMers like Gunnar Bentz and Jay Litherland, came in 8th at the same meet. What’s more, UGA didn’t have a single entry in the individual 100 Free at 2017 SECs, yet somehow cobbled together a more respectable 5th place finish in the 400 free relay (Dale, Bentz, Clark, and Javier Acevedo). In stark comparison, the UGA men had 3 of the top 5 finishers in the 500 Free and 4 of the top 9 finishers in the 400 I.M. at the same meet.
The UGA men have made it their goal to crack the top 3 at NCAAs, but with their sprint freestyle Achilles heel, they haven’t been able to apply much pressure to Texas, California, and in-conference rival Florida. Even without a single 50 free or 100 free qualifier, Georgia managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat to finish second at the 2017 SECs ahead of Auburn. Florida, however, took the conference title over Georgia by almost 300 points. Florida, notably, happens to have the greatest male collegiate freestyle sprinter of all-time in Caleb Dressel, who still has one more year of eligibility much to the Dawgs’ chagrin.
Rothery is a welcomed addition to the Georgia men’s team since graduating three aces last year in Chase Kalisz, Taylor Dale, and Pace Clark. The Class of 2017, which includes big names like Camden Murphy, Aaron Apel, and Tal Davis, again has no real freestyle sprinters. The Georgia Bulldogs will rely on Rothery and Teagan Cheney (21.09 50 free, 44.88 100 free) to make further drops and fill some relay holes.
In addition to Murphy, Davis, Apel, and Cheney who were previously mentioned, Rothery joins Greg Reed, Joshua Fulcher, Cade Anderson, and Youssef Said as part of the Class of 2017.
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