With swimmers gunning for both Olympic Trials cuts in the long course meters prelims as well as potential NCAA cuts in the short course yards finals, all of the teams at the Tennessee Invitational were jacked up and ready to swim fast on day 1, and that they did.
The LSU women got things kicked off with a 1:31.21 in the 200 free relay that stands 3rd-best in the country this year, with a quartet of Amanda Kendall (22.52), Marre Niemi, Amber Carter, and Samantha Goates. That’s an impressive time for a relay that stands as Jr, Fr, Fr, Sr in class. They’ve really got things rolling in Baton Rouge.
Texas A&M’s sprinters began to show signs of life with a 1:31.80, which is 5th-best in the country. That time should emerge about 15th in the country after all of the fall invites are through. The relay was balanced, without a real anchor, as all 4 swimmers went 22.8’s or 22.9’s. That includes breaststroke star Breeja Larson, who split 22.88. Still, A&M has some work to do. Two of their best freestylers Sarah Henry and Lili Ibanez are redshirting the season with serious injuries. That’s a huge blow to their season, as their free relays are in serious trouble in the long-term.
In a loaded women’s 500 free field, A&M’s Cammile Adams and Maureen McLaine took big wins in 4:41.38 and 4:41.56, respectively. Those marks rank 3rd and 4th in the country so far this year (within a few tenths of the top two). Arkansas’ Chelsea Franklin cut 8 seconds off of her season best to land a 4:44.52, with Tennessee’s Lindsay Gendron was 4th in 4:46.68, a four-second season best.
Further down the rankings, the top LSU finisher was Sara Haley in 4:51.23, which is a lifetime best. She’s been off to a hot start this season, and look for a great swim for her in the 200 fly on day 3.
In the early-going, it appears that Tennessee is the least-rested of the teams in attendance. Their swimmers were about a second slower across the board as compared to last year at this same meet.
Louisville freshman Tanja Kylliaine posted a great win in the women’s 200 IM in 1:59.46. That’s only a tenth away from her career-best time and moves her into 2nd-place on the all-time Louisville list. That’s another top-5 time in the country, as well.
A&M’s Paige Miller (1:59.7) and Erica Dittmer (1:59.8) also broke the two-minute barrier.
LSU’s Amanda Kendall continued her hot-season with a dominant 22.36 win in the 50 free. That puts her 2nd in the country behind Auburn’s Anna Vanderpool-Wallace. If there were one conference that If you’re not already getting excited for the SEC Championships, do so. The three fastest (and four of the top five) in the 50 free all hail from that conference.
In the final women’s event of the first day, the Aggies took a win in 3:35.74, which is by two seconds the best time in the country this year. The A&M medley relays are going to be significantly better than their freestyle relays. This swim included some blistering times from their sophomore middle-legs, with Larson splitting a 58.50 and Miller swimming a 52.5 on the fly leg. There’s still some work to do on the bookends (Tess Simpson 54.6 backstroke, Dittmer 50.1 on free), but the middle legs are already top-5 NCAA ready.
Tennessee’s A relay took 2nd with a 49.1 anchor from Gendron, en route to a 3:38.74. Kendall would anchor LSU’s A-relay in 48.40.
On the men’s side, the Louisville Cardinals showed that they’re developing depth beyond just a breaststroke program. They marked a 1:19.63, which is the best time in the country this year. They were led by a 19.55 anchor from Samuel Hoekstra, and didn’t have a leg slower than 20.1.
They continued their hot-swimming with a win in the 500 free from senior Riley Martin in 4:18.16. That smashes 4 seconds off of his career-best time. That mark would have put him into the B final at last year’s NCAA Championship meet. Tennessee leader Ryan Harrison swam in the C-Final in 4:29.39, which was the third-best swim of the meet overall. He slipped in the long course 400 in prelims, which is unusual given his background as a European/international swimmer.
The men’s 200 IM was an awesome 4-way battle between three Louisville swimmers and a Tennessee Volunteer who all went under 1:50. At the final touch, Alex Burtch blew by his senior teammate Scotty Gunter after the final flipturn to touch in 1:49.48. Gunter was 2nd in 1:49.60, and impressive Tennessee freshman Tristan Slater (also with a great final 50) was 3rd in 1:49.83.
LSU junior Andrei Tuomola finally clipped the Louisville winning streak in the 50 free with a winning time of 19.94. That’s already within two tenths of his best time from the SEC Championships last year. The only other swimmer that was close was an exhibition from former Kentucky Wildcat Alex Forbes in 20.08.
Louisville would win the 400 medley relay as well in 3:14.94. That includes a 54.2 breaststroke split from All-American Carlos Almeida and a 43.6 anchor from Brazilian Joao de Lucca. That mark ranks them #2 in the country this year, behind only a rested Minnesota team at the Grand Prix.
Full/live results here. There were some issues with the timing system earlier in the meet, but as of this posting it appears as though those have been cleared up.