The Vanderbilt Commodores may have finished 12th out of 12 teams at last year’s SEC Championship, but it was a last place finish with style, that included breaking 14 school records over 5 days.
Editor’s note: 200-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard medley relay, 800-yard freestyle relay, 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard breaststroke, 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard backstroke, 200-yard butterfly, 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM and 50-yard freestyle.
Even as Vanderbilt improved last year, though, the Texas A&M women are one of the top 5 teams in the country this year, and the Aggies won the meet by a score of 154.5-98.5, with exhibitions for the last 5 events of the meet.
“I’m very pleased with the start to the season,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Bultman said. “I think that for a first meet we had some really solid swims to start off the year.“
The Aggies swam a mixture of primary and off-events at this meet, so there’s some interesting results to report on. Especially so, the relay splits give a good opportunity for analysis.
A&M’s A relay of Melanie McClure, Breeja Larson, Cammile Adams, and Sammie Bosma combined for a 1:42.83, their second relay was a 1:43.62, and their third relay was a 1:45.52, but there were good splits throughout the three.
Breeja Larson split a 27.52 in the breaststroke leg of the winning relay; while there’s no official rankings kept for relay splits, that’s the fastest split in the country that we’ve seen so far. Super freshman Sycerika McMahon, in her first meet as an Aggie, split 29.60 on her breaststroke leg, and Canadian sophomore Ashley McGregor was a 29.67 on hers. The Aggies are loaded with breaststrokers.
On the second-place relay, Paige Miller split 24.33 on the fly leg, bettering Adams’ 25.45 and Emily Neubert’s 25.38.
Kelli Benjamin was the best 50 backstroker of the group with a 26.3 on the second-place relay. This is the one medley spot that is the most up-in-the-air this season; the aforementioned Miller is probably their best option, but she’s also their best option on the fly leg.
A&M’s sprint group is looking better already. Their best freestyler, Lili Ibanez, didn’t swim the 200 medley, but Bosma Meredith Oliver and Erica Dittmer went 23.1-23.2-23.0, respectively.
Ibanez didn’t swim that relay, but she did have some good swims in her individual races. She won the 200 free in 1:49.12, and also won the 100 fly in 56.16.
Leading off A&M’s winning 400 free relay, Ibanez split a 50.81.
In the 100 back, one of Paige Millers’ individual NCAA events the last few years, she won in a good early-season 55.44, with Melanie McClure taking 2nd in 56.73. Vanderbilt’s Chrissy Oberg was 3rd in that race in 58.12: she was one of the bright spots for the Commodores, as she also took 2nd in the 200 back in 2:05.20.
The Aggies went 1-2 in the 100 breaststroke, as two-time defending NCAA 100 breaststroke champion Breeja Larson very nearly became the first swimmer in the country to break a minute in the race with a 1:00.05. That put her ahead of her teammate McMahon in 1:04.90, and Vanderbilt freshman Katie Coughlin in 1:05.98.
Larson’s other individual event was the 200 IM, where she was second to her teammate and fellow Olympian Erica Dittmer (2:01.72), which left Ashley McGregor to win the 200 breaststroke in 2:19.57.
The Commodores have to keep working their way up the ladder; they only have a single sophomore on their roster, though they’ll hope that a huge freshman class can help make up for that. The freshman swam well for their second big SEC meet already this year; aside from Coughlin, Bolles alum Chandler Soapes took 3rd in the 200 back in 2:08.24.