The SEC Championships are underway, and there’s a surprise at the top of both team standings.
The Tennessee women hold a significant lead in the women’s race (118 to Auburn’s 101) on the strength of two relays into the top 3, along with a strong diving performance. The Tennessee men rode even bigger diving points to move into a tie with Auburn for the lead at 106.
Women’s 200 Medley Relay
In the opening race of the 2012 SEC Championships, the women’s 200 medley relay, it’s hard to pick what the true headline was. There were so many great swims that are truly indicative of how fast this meet stacks up to be this year.
The Tennessee Volunteer women touched first in the relay in 1:35.33. With that swim, the quartet of Jenny Connolly, Molly Hannis, Kelsey Floyd, and Caroline Simmons crushed the SEC record that was set by Auburn at last year’s meet at 1:36.11. We knew that this relay would be fast (especially with Connolly and Floyd on the backstroke and butterfly legs), but the pure speed they showed was unbelievable. That includes a surprise 21.76 from Simmons on the anchor.
That swim by the Volunteers would have placed 2nd at NCAA’s last year.
Auburn, even with the same foursome, was actually slower than they were at this meet last season. It appears as though my hopes are coming true – that they’ve minimized their rest for this meet to focus on NCAA’s. But that doesn’t mean that Anna Vanderpool-Wallace, the best sprinter in the country (and by year’s end, maybe in NCAA history) didn’t still wow the crowd. She split a 20.80 on the Tigers’ anchor leg, and as far as I can tell, that makes her the first woman to ever go sub-21, even on a relay (during Lara Jackson’s blazing 2009 NCAA Championship meet, she swam leadoff on the 200 free relay, and butterfly on the medleys – though she broke the flat-start NCAA record).
Next up will be Vanderpool-Wallace’s quest to become the first woman to flat-start under 21 seconds, though that may have to wait until NCAA’s.
Florida took 3rd in 1:37.29, and though that’s well off of the win, it is an encouraging sign going into Nationals. This could have been a tough relay for the Gators, but with another few-tenths of a drop, they could push into the A-Final. That would be a gigantic boost to their team score. Sara Bateman added another great anchor in 21.60.
As a brief digression, this race sets up a fantastic individual 50 freestyle race.
Men’s 200 Medley
The Auburn men took the men’s 200 medley relay in 1:24.38 to dominate the field. This was a huge relay, with Kyle Owens (21.45), Stuart Ferguson (23.88), Marcelo Chierighini (20.20), and Karl Krug (18.85) participating. There were a couple of very surprising swims in there. Ferguson is already faster than National Teamer Adam Klein was on this relay at NCAA’s last year; Chierighini’s split will probably stand as the 3rd-best 50 butterflier in the country (behind Cody Roberts and Tom Shields); and Krug certainly helps forget the loss of All-American Adam Brown. Owens’ split wasn’t awesome, but if he gets that back around in March, this squad is the favorite next month.
A young Georgia relay took 2nd in 1:26.16. Freshman Nic Fink had a strong 23.89 breaststroke swim. That time should be good enough to qualify the relay for NCAA’s, which is significant as last year, they didn’t squeeze this one in.
Florida was 3rd in 1:26.28. They had a great anchor from Bradley deBorde, who we highlighted in the meet preview as a great relay swimmer.
Women’s 800 Free Relay
In the women’s 800 free relay, there were no surprises. The Georgia women won handily in 6:57.09, and if they can repeat that at NCAA’s, they’d have a great shot of winning already. Sophomore Shannon Vreeland swam a great 1:43.82 on the leadoff leg, and Megan Romano anchored in 1:42.31.
The Florida women looked strong again in this relay to take 2nd in 7:00.32, which is an NCAA “A” time standard and faster than they were at NCAA’s last year. This is the Gators’ best relay, and this year they will be hoping to improve on their time in March (rather than add a second). Tennessee took 3rd in 7:03.63. They’re one leg short of having another great relay here – after a 1:48 leadoff, Kelsey Floyd got them back into the race with a 1:44.23.
Looking down to the 5th-place LSU relay, Amanda Kendall led off in 1:44.97. If we play a little bit of “if-then”, that time is about a second-and-a-half faster than she was at November’s Tennessee Invitational in the same pool. She was a 48.1 in that same meet in the 100 free. Do the math – she’s due for a huge swim in the 100 free on Saturday.
Men’s 800 Free Relay
Maybe it’s a sign of the times in
Auburn, Alabama the SEC as a whole, but in an upset the Auburn men won only their 2nd SEC 800 free relay since the year 2000 (and 6th ever). That year, it took only a 6:27 to win. In 2012, the time it takes to win has inflated to 6:20.63, with a group of Kyle Owens, James Disney-May, Allen Browning, and Zane Grothe; with Grothe taking the best-swim honor in 1:34.18. That’s a very young relay, and there’s a good chance that they could string together another win or two in this relay.
Florida took 2nd just behind in 6:20.86. They had strong bookends from their best swimmer Marcin Cieslak (1:34.79) on the leadoff, and freshman Eduardo Solaeche (1:34.30) on the anchor. In between, Connor Signorin (1:36.56) and Nicholas Caldwell (1:35.21) were way ahead of their season bests. This is another extremely young relay.
The Georgia men took 3rd in 6:25.35. Nic Fink had another great relay swim with a 1:35.2 split. Auburn ended up getting DQ’ed, but they had a great 2nd-leg from sophomore BJ Hornikel in 1:34.09. That would have been the fastest split in the field.
Auburn’s Vannie Dantin is having another strong meet, and topped the 1-meter in 332.40. That’s a great score for her.
The real focus is on the runner-up, Tori Lamp, from Tennessee. After having her first two seasons in Knoxville ruined by injury, Lamp is finally hitting her prophesied potential. In highschool, he was a USA Diving National Championship runner-up on the platform, and a member of the National Team. With her at full speed, the Volunteer’s chances at sneaking into the top 3 greatly imrpove.
Altogether, the Vol’s had 3 of the top 5 finishers.
The Tennessee men also took advantage of the home-pool (which is bigger in diving than it is in swimming). Ryan Helms topped the men’s 3-meter in 446.20, and Mariuci Robles took 3rd in 412.90. In between them was Greg Ferrucci in 427.30.
1. Auburn 106
1. Tennessee 106
3. LSU 73
3. Georgia 73
5. Kentucky 71
6. Florida 67
7. South Carolina 63
8. Alabama 24
1. Tennessee 118
2. Auburn 101
3. LSU 74
4. Georgia 72
5. South Carolina 67
6. Florida 66
7. Arkansas 59
8. Alabama 58
9. Vanderbilt 32
10. Kentucky 30
Live Results here.