Virginia’s Leah Smith and Cal’s Tyler Messerschmidt open the three-day UGA Fall Invitational at the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, GA with impressive times during Friday morning’s prelims. Competition resumes Friday evening with finals and relays at 5:30 p.m. EST.
Smith achieved an NCAA ‘A’ cut with a personal best 4:32.61 result in the women’s 500-yard free, while the 6’7” Messerschmidt dropped 0.57 seconds off his season best to record a 19.47 in the men’s 50-yard free and gain an NCAA ‘B’ cut. Messerschmidt, whose best time is 19.16, was the first of six men to qualify under 20 seconds for Friday night’s final.
In the pool, Georgia hosts SEC rival Auburn University (Auburn), Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), University of Virginia (Virginia), University California Berkeley (Cal) and Florida State. Prelim competition starts at 9:30 on all three days. Finals go at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The Bulldog divers host Auburn, Penn State, Virginia, Harvard University, Virginia Tech and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Diving competition starts at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, 5:15 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Smith Bests Her Own School Record In 500-Yard Free
University of Virginia’s sophomore Leah Smith is the top qualifier for tonights 500-yard free final with a very fast 4:32.61, which is a 13 second drop from her season best time and erases her own school record (4:33.65) by 1.04 seconds.
Cal’s Cierra Runge was the second top qualifier at nearly five seconds back (4:37.06), while host Georgia senior Amber McDermott, who finished third at last year’s NCAA Championships in this event, qualified third (4:39.34). She was followed by teammates Brittany MacLean (4:40.68) and Hali Flickinger (4:41.45). The top 23 finishers all dropped time from their seed entries.
The top three qualifiers in the men’s 500-yard free were all Bulldogs, as freshman Kevin Litherland (4:17.75) dropped ten seconds from his seed time to post a NCAA ‘B’ cut. Teammates Jay Litherland (4:19.24) and junior Matias Koski (4:19.92) were the second and third top qualifiers, also with NCAA ‘B’ cuts. The top 11 qualifiers achieved NCAA ‘B’ cuts and qualified with season-best times.
Friday night’s A Final will feature five Bulldogs, three of which are bothers, as freshman Mick Litherland (4:21.94 ) and Alec Cohen (4:22.33) qualified sixth and seventh.
200-Yard IM Battles Are Brewing
Watch the middle four lanes of the women’s A Final Friday night, as only 0.70 seconds separated the top four qualifiers in the 200-yard IM prelims. Courtney Bartholomew (1:55.23) and Kaitlyn Jones (1:55.61) qualified one and two for Virginia, while Cal’s Missy Franklin (1:55.92) qualified third and Virginia’s Ellen Williamson (1:55.93), who is the third of four Virginia swimmers to qualify for the A Final, qualifies fourth. The top 21 qualifiers all achieved NCAA ‘B’ cuts.
For the men’s 200-yard IM, it’s an all Georgia and Cal A-Final, as each team has four swimmers competing Friday night. The Bulldogs have the top three qualifiers Chase Kalisz (1:43.56), Tynan Stewart (1:43.75) and Gunnar Bentz (1:43.85). Jay Litherland (1:46.31), who made a quick turn-around after qualifying second in the 500-yard free, qualified seventh to be the fourth Georgia man in the A Final.
Cal qualified four men in the A-Final with the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth qualifiers. Will Hamilton (1:44.21), who dropped four seconds from his seed time, was the top qualifier for Cal. The top twenty-men qualified with NCAA ‘B’ cuts.
Messerschmidt Goes 19.47 in Prelims
The top eight qualifiers in the women’s 50-yard free were all under 22.50 and within 0.47 seconds of each other. Host Georgia’s Chantal Van Landeghem led the way with season best time by 0.68 seconds to qualify first with a 22.03. A tenth of a second back was Cal’s Farida Osman (22.13) and Virginia’s Ellen Thomas (22.14), who qualified fourth earlier in the 200-yard IM A Final, put up the third fasted qualifying time, 0.01 behind Osman.
Six men go under 20 seconds in the 50-yard free prelims. It was Cal’s Tyler Messerschmidt blazing a path under 20 seconds with a hot 19.47, as Bulldogs Michael Trice (19.72) and Nicolas Fink (19.88), and Auburn’s Arthur Mendes (19.89), Kyle Darmody (19.95) and Seth Stubblefield (19.96) followed. Cal’s Lai Yeung Chung (20.15) and Penn State’s Nate Savoy (20.17) were just north of 20 seconds, which means we could see an all-sub-20-second A Final Friday night.
Competition this evening starts 5:30 p.m. EST.