The Texas men and women swept the Auburn Tigers on Thursday in Austin in both teams’ post-holiday premiers; both meets saw comfortable margins for the Longhorns that afforded them the luxury of exhibitioning the last two men’s events and the last women’s event.
The final score in the men’s meet was 162.5-132.5 in favor of Reese’s crew, and the women’s meet went 168.5-129.5 in favor of the Longhorns as well.
The big news for the Texas men was the return to the competition pool of Jake Ritter in his first intercollegiate racing of the 2013-2014 season. He missed the fall semester after an out-of-the-pool run-in caused him to have to undergo surgery.
Ritter’s season debut was a solid one, as he took 3rd in the 200 free in 1:40.7, and 7th in the 500 in 4:44.5.
He was part of a Texas 1-2-3-4 in that 200 free – a race dominated by junior Clay Youngquist in a very fast 1:36.90. He’s not only the first swimmer of the new semester under 1:37, nobody else has even been under 1:38 in 2014.
Youngquist added a win in the 500 free in 4:26.22, with teammate Sam Lewis touching 2nd in 4:28.36, and Auburn’s Zane Grothe 3rd in 4:35. Grothe, a multi-time All-American, has historically been much faster than this coming out of winter training, so those are results to keep-an-eye-on.
Grothe was 3rd in the 1000 free as well, an event won by Texas freshman Clark Smith in 9:05.73. That is a lifetime best for Smith by 5 seconds, though he hasn’t swum it since his junior year of high school.
Auburn’s top performers came from the areas where they were expected: the backstrokes and the sprint freestyles. In the backstroke races, freshman Joe Patching battled Texas’ star freshman Jack Conger stroke-for-stroke. In the 100, that went the way of the Tigers, with Patching winning in 48.09 (the entirety of that gap was earned on the first 50). That’s another big statement by Patching in a season where he’s had several noteworthy swims that show he’s a viable contender in a great freshman backstroke class nationwide.
In the 200, the tables flipped, and it was Conger who by a margin of 1:44.57-1:44.89, once again mainly on the strength of the front-half of his race.
Patching would later win a 2nd race, going a 3:54.17 in the 400 IM. That bettered another Longhorn making his season debut: freshman Austin Vacek, who was a 3:54.66 for his first career NCAA swim.
Conger also took a win in the 100 fly with a 47.32. Though he’s best known as a backstroker, Conger is also one of the best junior butterfliers in American history, especially in yards, and that fly could be a consideration event for him at NCAA’s.
Coming in behind Conger was his teammate Tripp Cooper in 48.20, and Auburn’s Arthur Mendes in 48.55.
In the sprint freestyles, Marcelo Chierighini, who is a big favorite in the 50 and 100 at NCAA’s until Brad Tandy gets cleared to swim at Arizona, took a sweep. First, he won the 50 free in 19.90 over a pair of Texas sophomores John Murray (20.42) and Matt Ellis (20.63).
In the 100 free, the win by Chierighini was even more convincing, as he took 1st in 43.20, followed by teammate James Disney-May (44.34) and John Murray (44.57).
Chierighini’s speed gives Auburn some hope of a big finish at NCAA’s; despite an overall lose to the Longhorns, Auburn did win both relays, and relays play big in March. In the 200 medley, the team of Patching, Michael Duderstadt, Chierighini, and a 19.62 anchor from Disney-May won in 1:28.88.
Texas put sophomore Aaron Gustafson on their leadoff leg. Gustafson had somewhat of an underrated freshman year, and a very good 22.92 lead-off against Auburn gives Texas some options on this medley come NCAA’s – they could move Conger to the backstroke leg and use Tripp Cooper on the medley as well, if they wanted to, or leave the relay just like this. On Thursday, they went Gustafson, Imri Ganiel, Conger, and Ellis as their foursome in a 1:29.64. Conger’s 21.1 split was the only Longhorn to ‘win his leg.’
In the closing 200 free relay, Auburn got a full second on an exhibitioned Texas ‘A” relay; using a 19.88 lead-off from Chierighini and a 19.36 anchor from freshman Kyle Darmody, they went on to a 1:19.05 win. Texas had a 19.49 from Murray on their 2nd leg, and finished 2nd in 1:20.13.
Perhaps the most interesting results of the day on the men’s side came in the breaststroke races. Neither team is extremely deep in that event, but Michael Duderstadt won the 100 in 55.63 over Texas’ Will Licon. Longhorn Imri Ganiel took 5th in 56.89. In the 200, which is Licon’s better of the two distances, he won a big race in 2:01.19, with Duderstadt and UT’s Matt Korman tying for 2nd well-back in 2:02.96. That was a question-mark area for both teams in the summer, and is ultimately coming together nicely on both sides as the year progresses.
The women’s meet had a bit of a different feel to it than the men’s. In the meet’s first event, the 1000 free (swum before the relay for television purposes), it was Auburn freshman Ashley Neidigh who won in 1:01.69, beating out a stiff Texas distance group that had Kelsey Leneave 2nd in 10:02.55 and Kaitlin Pawlowicz 3rd in 10:03.03. Neidigh really pulled away in that race over the last 150-or-so yards.
Then it was Texas who won the 200 medley relay on the women’s side, and quite handily at that. Thanks in large part to breaststroker Gretchen Jaques, who is phenomenal over 50 yards (she split 28.59), the Longhorns won in 1:40.47. The best split for Auburn was a 22.33 from freshman Allyx Purcell on their anchor leg.
This women’s meet remained a back-and-forth affair early. After Texas went 1-2 in the women’s 200 free (Alex Hooper – 1:48.25, and Sam Tucker – 1:49.44), Auburn took the top spot in the 100 back (Emily Bos – 53.41). That 100 back was a very good fight between Texas’ Lily Moldenhauer, who was a 53.74 after leading halfway.
Then things swung back Texas’ way in the 100 breaststroke, thanks to another great swim by Jaques, winning in 1:01.78. The Auburn team that was so good and so deep in the breaststrokes last year only had two entries in this race, and couldn’t do anything about a Texas 1-4 finish.
Next came an Auburn 1-2 in the 200 fly. Sarah Peterson won in 2:00.95, with Alex Merritt taking 2nd in 2:02.04, before Longhorn Kaitlin Pawlowicz broke the streak with a 2:02.52 for 3rd.
Texas then broke things open in the next two events. Senior captain Ellen Lobb put up a big 22.85 in the 50 free to fight off the Auburn standout start-up Purcell (22.94), and the Texas women really went-to-town on diving with a 1-2-3 finish. Auburn looks this year like they may have 1 NCAA qualifier on the boards, but Texas looks like they’ve got at least three (if not four) NCAA SCORERS on the same, so the points swing in this dual is an accurate representation of what we’ll expect to see at NCAA’s.
Auburn did make a dent coming back as they went 1-2-3 in the 100 free. Emily Bos won in 50.00, followed by Haley Krakoski (50.18), Purcell (50.43), and Lobb in 4th in 50.50. Auburn had another positive result from its deep backstroke group as they took 4 out of the top 5 places in the 200, led by sophomore Jillian Vitarius in 1:56.57. Texas’ Tasija Karosas did well for 2nd in 1:58.15.
The Texas women would then go on a big run toward the end of the meet, winning 4 of the last 5 individual events, to seal up the scoring headed into the relay. That run included a pair from freshman Madisyn Cox, with a 2:15.34 in the 200 breaststroke and a 4:16.61 in the 400 IM.
The Auburn win in that stretch came from defending NCAA 100 fly champion Olivia Scott in 54.25 in her primary event.
With nothing but the last blow on the line in the 200 free relay, Texas and Auburn had a great battle in the 200 free relay. Ultimately, though, Auburn was just a hair better at every punch, and took the win in 1:31.40, with Texas’ top relay placing 2nd in 1:31.74. Auburn had three under 23 seconds on that relay, including a 22.5 from Bos, and Texas’ top split was a 22.62 (on only a .3 reaction time) from Lobb.
The takeaway from the women’s meet is that both Auburn and Texas, while neither having a hugely-heralded freshman class, are getting good contributions from their rookies so far this year – something that both teams need.