Produced by Coleman Hodges.
Reported by Jared Anderson.
MEN’S 400 IM – FINALS
- Jay Litherland, UGA – 3:40.33
- Mark Szaranek, FLOR – 3:41.88
- Joe Patching, AUB – 3:42.71
Georgia’s Jay Litherland was just 6th coming out of prelims, but found five more seconds worth of speed to go 3:40.33 and keep the SEC 400 IM title in the Bulldog family.
Chase Kalisz had won the title for the past three years, but is sitting out this season on an Olympic redshirt, opening the door for Litherland. The sophomore was extremely patient in the race, trailing the lead dogs for 300 yards before dropping the hammer with a stunning 49.03 split on the freestyle leg.
Auburn’s Joe Patching, coming off a 200 IM win a night earlier, jumped out to a big lead on fly and back, leading the field by three full seconds at the halfway mark. At that point, Florida’s Mark Szaranek was second, with Litherland third. Both Szaranek and Litherland caught up a bit on the breaststroke, but Patching actually led all the way up to the 350-turn in the freestyle leg.
Litherland was unstoppable in taking the win, but Szaranek also went by Patching for a second-consecutive runner-up finish in the 400 IM. Szaranek was 3:41.88, with Patching coming in at 3:42.71.
Georgia’s Gunnar Bentz was fourth in 3:43.73, and Tennessee’s Sam McHugh, the top seed out of prelims, went 3:44.27 for fifth overall.
The 400 IM more than any other race is about gamesmanship between prelims and finals, and that was on full display here, with the entire top 5 dropping time from morning to evening, some of them in big chunks.