SEC – WOMEN SWIMMING & DIVING + MEN’S DIVING
- Wednesday, February 17 – Saturday, February 20, 2021
- W Swimming: Gabrielsen Natatorium – Athens, GA (Eastern Time Zone)
- W&M Diving: Mizzou Aquatics Center – Columbia, MO (Central Time Zone)
- Defending Champion: Tennessee (1x) (2020 results)
- Live results
- Live Video – SEC Network
- Championship Central
- Psych Sheets
In each of the last two seasons, University of Kentucky backstroker Parker Herren ended her collegiate season at the Ohio State Winter Invite – a meet primarily for swimmers who didn’t make the team’s travel roster for the SEC Championships.
This year, though, Herren not only made the roster for the SEC Championships, but has qualified for the “A” final in the 100 yard backstroke: the 3rd of 3 Wildcats to earn a spot in that heat.
Kentucky’s backstroke success is nothing new. They’ve had one of the best women’s backstroke groups in the country for several years, including the 2017, 2018, and 2019 SEC Champion in the 200 back Asia Seidt.
Herren arrived at Kentucky as very much a ‘project’ recruit. At the Kentucky High School State Championships during her senior season, she placed 20th in the 100 back with a 1:00.43.
From a rural part of the state, in high school Herren had to drive long distances to the nearest pool and wasn’t able to train as often as most high school swimmers.
When she graduated high school, her best times were 59.77 in the 100 back and 2:10.82 in the 200 back. That season, her 100 back time would have ranked her 131st out of 139 SEC swimmers who raced the 100 back that season, and 117th out of 119 SEC swimmers who raced the 200 back that season.
By the end of her freshman season, at that culminating Ohio State Winter Invitational, she had dropped her 100 back to 55.87 and her 200 back to 2:01.59. Those swims, huge drops even relative to her prior freshman year swims, showed the first sparks of what Herren could become.
A season later, Herren’s mid-season swim at the Ohio State Invitational (the one in winter, with the “A” team), resulted in another personal best in the 100 back, marking 54.93. Back in Columbus for the year-ending Winter Invitational was another season best, this time a 54.32.
The 200 back followed the same pattern. 1:59.31 mid-season, down to a 1:57.01 and an NCAA “B” cut at year’s end.
While those times would have still left her short of second swims at the SEC Championships, it became clear that Herren had caught fire.
This season, in the most unusual of seasons, more personal bests, first mid-season at the Mizzou Invitational and then again at the team’s late-January dual meet against Kentucky (53.91/1:56.51), earned Herren a trip to the SEC Championships in Athens this week.
So far, she’s made that trip count, dropping a 53.14 in prelims of the 100 back to join teammates Caitlin Brooks (3rd seed – 51.86) and Sophie Sorenson (4th seed – 52.18) in the A final.
For comparison, the heavily-recruited Brooks, a sophomore, had a best time of 52.26 coming out of high school, and Sorenson, a junior, had a best time of 54.57 coming out of high school.
And she still has the 200 backstroke to come, where she enters as the 14th seed.
It feels like she’s probably going to beat that seed.
- It took 52.73 and 1:53.99 in the 100 and 200 back to qualify for NCAAs last season.
- Herren’s first event of the meet was the 50 free, where a 24.85 in prelims left her 75th out of 79 legally-finishing swimmers.
- We reached out to Kentucky head coach Lars Jorgensen to ask about Herren’s progression, but he declined to comment for this story.