Auburn and Alabama kicked off an exciting weekend of SEC action on Friday, and their junior sprinter Marcelo Chierighini gets top honors for Swimmer of the Week in the conference on the men’s side, with an early-season 44.44 in the 100 free.
For the women, top conference honors goes to A&M’s Olympic finalist Breeja Larson for her exploits in wins over South Carolina and North Carolina. Larson has already dipped under a minute in the 100 yard breaststroke, and looks like she might be unstoppable in that race this season.
A&M Women Sweep in SEC Debut at South Carolina, UNC
Women: Texas A&M 190 – SC 102; A&M 174.5 – UNC 123.5; UNC 198 – SC 99
In the first-ever SEC meet for the Texas A&M women, they topped new in-conference foe South Carolina, as well as the ACC’s North Carolina, in a tri-meet in Columbia on Saturday.
A&M’s vaunted 200 medley relay kicked off with a 1:40.84 to win by three seconds. Early on this season, that’s the country’s fastest time for a relay that has potential NCAA Championship aspirations. The quartet of Tess Simpson, Breeja Larson, Paige Miller, and Caroline McElhany posted a time that’s already within reach of shoring up NCAA qualification. Miller’s 24.05 on the butterfly leg was the most impressive split as the Aggies are trying a few different lineups out in this race early.
With Simpson back in the lineup (she missed NCAA finals of this race last year, though not prelims), Miller slid to fly, which slid McElhany to the freestyle leg in place of Erica Dittmer. Dittmer, however, had a faster split (by about a tenth) on the anchor of the B than did McElhany, and also won the individual 50 in 23.56.
In the first individual race of the meet, and of her season, North Carolina’s Stephanie Peacock won the 1000 free in 9:40.96. For the defending NCAA Champion in the 1650, that is easily the best time in the country so far. It’s good to see her really getting a chance to explore a full season of distance swimming this year, after being a relative novice going into her title-winning sophomore year.
A&M Olympian Cammile Adams was 2nd in that race in 9:47.89, but would come back later to win the 200 fly, her primary event, in 1:59.55. North Carolina freshman Emma Nunn did well to hang with Adams throughout this race, with the Olympic finalist only pulling away (as she is wont to do) in the final 50 yards.
A&M’s other Olympian, Breeja Larson, became the first swimmer in the NCAA season to crack a minute in the 100 breast with a 59.88. She also won the 200 breast in 2:10.90, ahead of former SEC Champion Amanda Rutqvist (2:14.87) who is striving to bust out of a sophomore slump.
As good as their stroke-swimmers were, A&M’s short-freestylers didn’t have quite as good of a go. North Carolina’s Danielle Siverling won both the 100 free (50.57) and 200 free (1:47.67), and also took 2nd-honors in both races. Texas A&M’s Lili Ibanez bounced-back on the Aggies’ 400 free relay, though, with a 49.51 anchor. A&M is really counting on big performances from their sprinters this year to carry into the top 5 in the country, especially Ibanez who was injured last year.
It’s not clear if Texas A&M coach Steve Bultman has changed his strategy for the new qualifying procedures or in a much more competitive conference, but as compared to where they are when they usually start their season, this was a very encouraging performance for the Aggies.
Full meet results available here.
North Carolina Men Swept; A&M Goes 0-2 in SEC Debut
Men: UNC 168 – SC 132; UNC 178.5 – A&M 121.5, SC 160 A&M 140
The first-ever SEC meet for the A&M men started out positively, with a 1:32.01 win in the 200 medley relay. That included an encouraging 19.94 anchor for sprinter Kyle Troskot, who is hoping to breakout after two years that haven’t quite lived up to the hype he saw when he first committed to the Aggies out of Canada. He also won the individual 50 in 20.43 ahead of teammate John Dalton (20.58).
After that, however, the two Carolinas took control of the meet with 6 wins from SC and 5 from NC.
The Tar Heels got immediate dividends from sophomore transfer David Speese, who won the 100 breaststroke in 57.13. Speese transfered to UNC after Maryland cut their program last season, and it’s easy to be happy for his early success.
South Carolina got into the win column with a 1:38.56 from Michael Flach in the 200 free. He would follow that with two more individual victories in the 200 fly (1:48.69) and the 200 IM (1:50.95). Flach had a tough decision over the summer as to which 200 meter events to focus on for the Olympics, as he’s good in most of them, but at the NCAA level it’s a little bit easier for him to swim multiple races.
The two Carolinas would slug things out in the 400 free relay, coming down to the very last touch. There, Jt Stilley of North Carolina had just enough to out-touch the hard-finishing Flach by .01 seconds: 3:02.04-3:02.05. North Carolina got off to a great start thanks to a 45.14 leadoff by freshman Logan Heck.
One of the highlights for A&M was diver Hayden Jones. The younger brother of former USC All-American Harrison Jones is really coming into his own this year, now that he’s the A-1 diver in this group. He won both springboard events with big scores of 385.70 on the 1-meter and 418.20 on the 3-meter.
Full meet results available here.
Auburn Thumps ‘Bama in Pursley’s Debut
Women: Auburn 182-61
Full recap and results previously posted here.
Vanderbilt Freshman Mann Breaks Two School Records, But LSU Rolls
Women: LSU 181, Vanderbilt 80
Full recap and results of the mid-week meet previously posted here.