It was all about the relays in Auburn’s first-ever trip to Missouri, with the 200 medley relays in both genders coming down to touchouts.
Freshman Jacob Molacek split 19.4 in running down Missouri on the men’s side in that race, and the Auburn men were also lights-out in the 200 free relay. Their female counterparts, meanwhile, got big production out of Allyx Purcell, who won twice and nearly had her own relay run-down on the medley.
Auburn’s sprint prowess ultimately wore down the home team, as Auburn triumphed 162-137 on the women’s side and 162-138 for the men.
The women’s meet was a full-tilt SEC throwdown from the opening dive, with the 200 medley relay coming down to just tenths.
Missouri freshman Hannah Stevens summoned up her speed to beat tough Auburn junior Jillian Vitarius on the leadoff backstroke leg, 26.31 to 26.46. Breaststroker Abby Duncan, an Auburn-to-Mizzou transfer competing in her first official season with her new program, increased the lead, as did Mizzou’s star butterflyer Dani Barbiea. But Auburn very nearly undid all of that hard work with Allyx Purcell‘s blazing 21.75 relay split. But Missouri’s freshman anchor Rachel Hayden swam Purcell tough to the finish, hanging on for the win 1:40.61 to 1:40.85.
That win was much-needed, as Auburn would go on a tear through the rest of the meet’s first session. Ashley Neidigh took the first of her two wins in the 1000 free (9:59.41), and Auburn went 1-2-3 in the 200 free before Vitarius got her revenge on Stevens with a 54.73 win in the 100 back.
Neidigh would go on to win the 500 free in 4:50.51, and Vitarius also doubled up with a 1:57.86 win of the 200 back.
Missouri countered with a strong showing in both breaststrokes. The team’s school record-breaker last year as a freshman, Katherine Ross topped the 100 breast in 1:00.62. Ross now pairs with Duncan (who went 1:01.62 swimming against her former team) to give Missouri a 1-2 punch of breaststrokers with championship final potential at SECs and NCAAs.
The two flip-flopped in the 200 breast, with Duncan winning in 2:13.34. Ross was 2:13.46.
But Auburn shut down Missouri’s shot at winning the meet by neutralizing Missouri’s NCAA title-contending butterflyer Dani Barbiea. Barbiea won the 100 fly in 53.75 (there aren’t many butterflyers anywhere who can challenge Barbiea in that event at this point), but Auburn’s fierce sprinting attack relegated her to just 4th place in the 50 free.
That event went to Allyx Purcell, who is becoming a premier sprinting threat as a sophomore. Purcell was 22.64, the fastest swimmer in the pool by over half a second, and came back to win the 100 free in 49.60.
The dagger was when Auburn freshman McKenna Debever managed to top Ross for the 200 IM win later, 2:02.42 to 2:02.84. With Auburn ruling the sprints, a 200 free relay win was all but assured, and the meet ended in a 162-137 score.
Believe it or not, the men’s medley relay was actually closer than the women’s. While Mizzou held off an Auburn charge in the women’s event, the men weren’t so fortunate. Auburn’s star freshman Jacob Molacek has had a relatively quiet year so far, but put the team on his back to win the opening relay Thursday night.
Auburn fell behind over the first two legs (Mizzou’s Dillon Love and Sam Tierney were quick on back and breast), but Hugo Morris turned things around with a 21.33 butterfly split. Then Molacek exploded for a 19.49 split, running down Mizzou for the win. Auburn was 1:28.11 to Missouri’s 1:28.25.
It was an odd flow for the meet after that, with Missouri winning the first four individual races, but then dropping the next four to Auburn. In that four-event Missouri run, Love and Grant Kelton overcame Auburn’s Joe Patching for the backstroke win, one of the night’s biggest upsets.
Patching has been a stud for Auburn all year, but Kelton and Love put up lifetime-best swims to beat him, each cracking 48 for the first time. The freshman Kelton, in fact, went from a previous PR of 49.48 to a 47.93 to take the win. Love was 47.99 and Patching 48.48.
Missouri also got its first Sam Tierney win of the night during that 4-event run. The senior, who is among the nation’s best breaststrokers, was 53.35 to win the 100 breast, and would later take the 200 in 1:57.44, both convincing wins over Auburn’s Michael Duderstadt.
But Auburn fired back with a 4-event win streak of its own. That started with Australian freshman Hugo Morris, who had a stellar debut for Auburn last week against Florida and kept right on charging against Mizzou. Morris stole the 200 fly in 1:46.59, a dominating win that turned the tide back in favor of Auburn.
The streak continued with sophomore Kyle Darmody, who nabbed the 50 free in 20.19. Darmody had a huge postseason as a rookie, and seems to be heating up at the right time again in 2015.
Winning their first of two events each during that run were Arthur Mendes and Patching. Mendes ground out a tough 100 free win, going 43.90 to beat Missouri’s Michael Chadwick, with Darmody third. Patching, meanwhile, slammed the door on another upset, going 1:44.19 to beat Kelton and Love in the 200 back.
Mendes would go on to win the 100 fly (47.28), while Patching took the 200 IM (1:48.31).
One more big swing for Auburn was the 500 free, where the notoriously sprint-oriented program turned in a 1-2 finish. That was led by freshman Logan Samuelson,who went a season-best 4:30.58 to pick up the win.
The meet closed with the 200 free, where Auburn was predictably impressive. Combining 50 free champ Darmody, 100 free champ Mendes, breaststroker Duderstadt and medley relay hero Molacek, Auburn went 1:18.98, within a second of their season-best. Mendes was a blistering 19.59 on his split, and while official results erroneously combined the last two splits, Duderstadt and Molacek averaged 19.5 between them. Darmody was 20.20 leading off, just a hundredth off his time in the individual race.
The Auburn men triumped by nearly the exact same score as their sister program, 162-138.