Women’s SEC Swim & Dive Championships Fan Guide: Can Georgia Dethrone The Vols?

by Spencer Penland 5

February 11th, 2021 College, News, SEC

SEC – Women Swimming & Diving + Men’s Diving

  • Wednesday, February 17 – Saturday, February 20, 2021
  • W Swimming: Gabrielsen Natatorium – Athens, GA (Eastern Time Zone)
  • W&M Diving: Mizzou Aquatics Center – Columbia, MO (Central Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Tennessee (1x) (results)
  • Live results
  • Live Video – SEC Network
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets

Last year, the Tennessee Vols won their first women’s SEC swimming & diving championship in program history. That victory snapped 4-year win streak by Texas A&M, who joined the conference in 2012. The Vols earned their title after a hard-fought battle with the Florida Gators, who came in 2nd by just 28.5 points in spite of a big diving advantage.

The Aggies finished in a distant 6th.

This year, the Georgia Bulldogs are best positioned on the psych sheet, and appear to have the best shot at knocking the defending champion Vols of the throne. Georgia finished 4th last year, though they were less than 100 points out of 2nd pace, and just 122 points back from Tennessee, who graduated a number of their top swimmers.

Sophomore Zoie Hartman is leading the way for UGA, having earned the top seed in the 200 IM and 200 breast, as well as the #2 seed in the 100 breast. Hartman is the defending SEC champion in both breaststrokes, and is the fastest returner in the 200 IM after finishing 2nd last year. The Bulldogs also have top seeds in the 500 free (Courtney Harnish) and 200 fly (Dakota Luther), as well as the 800 free and 400 medley relays.

Though Tennessee is now without a powerful group of seniors who carried them to the title last season, including SEC Champions Erika Brown, Meghan Small, and Tess Cieplucha, they still return many finalists. Sprinters Bailey Grinter and Tjasa Pintar are still in the mix, as well as the versatile Trude Rothrock. The Vols are also aided by a stellar breaststroke squad of Mona McSharry, Nikol Popov, and Alexis Yager. McSharry, a freshman, is the top seeded 100 breaststroker, and currently holds the fastest time in the NCAA this year.

Last season, Florida finished runner-up by a slim margin. They are certainly in the mix of title contenders again this year, though the loss of Sherridon Dressel is a significant blow. The Gators also graduated Emma Ball and Isabella Garofalo, both of whom were pivotal relay swimmers and reliable individually as well. Kelly Fertel was also a big loss for the IM group. The Gators still have a solid sprint crew with Talia Bates, Katelyn Mack, and Gabrielle Hillis. The Florida distance and mid-distance crew is looking tough as well.

SCHEDULE

The SEC Championships will look a little different this year, with a reduced 3.5-day schedule, rather than the 4.5-day schedule they’ve been running for years now.

Wednesday:

  • 200 medley relay
  • 800 free relay
  • Women’s 1-meter diving

Thursday:

  • women’s 3-meter diving
  • 500 Free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 Free
  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Free Relay

Friday:

  • 400 IM
  • 100 Fly
  • Women’s platform diving
  • 200 Free
  • 100 breast
  • 100 back
  • Men’s 3-meter
  • 400 medley relay

Saturday:

  • 1650 Free
  • 200 Back
  • 100 Free
  • 200 Breast
  • Men’s Platform diving
  • 400 Free Relay

STARS

Alabama

Rhyan White (junior backstroker), Kensey McMahon (junior freestyler), Cora Dupre (sophomore sprinter), Morgan Scott (junior sprinter) – White is a top backstroker/flyer in the NCAA this season, entering SECs as the top seed in both backstrokes and the 100 fly. Kensey McMahon has emerged as one of the top distance swimmers in the country. She holds the top seed in the mile, and has the 2nd-fastest time in the NCAA this year. McMahon is also in title contention in the 500 as well. Cora Dupre, a transfer from IU, could make a splash at these championships. Dupre was one of the top swimmers at last year’s Big Ten Championships. Though she’s seeded low on the psych sheet, Dupre’s personal bests would put her in title contention in the 100 and 200 free. Morgan Scott is also looking at a trio of A finals appearances.

Arkansas

Vanessa Herrman (junior breaststroker/IM’er), Peyton Palsha (junior freestyler), Brooke Schultz (redshirt junior diver), Kobie Melton (junior sprinter) – Despite the loss of Anna Hopkin, one of the NCAA’s premier sprinters, Arkansas still appears poised to continue trending upwards. Melton is an A finals threat in the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly. Emily Barclay is also seeded on the edge of making A finals in the 50 free and 100 free. Peyton Palsha is in the title hunt in the mile, and is poised to be a top finisher in the 500 free and 400 IM as well. Herrman is looking at A finals appearances in both breaststroke events. The biggest strength of the Razorbacks is the diving squad, which is both deep and very talented. The divers are led by Brooke Schultz, who is a US National champion, and NCAA champion.

Auburn

Emily Hetzer (junior freestyler), Carly Cummings (senior breaststroker), Hannah Ownbey (senior backstroker), Jewels Harris (senior butterflier) – Auburn lost some of its heaviest hitters, including sprint stars Claire Fisch and Julia Meynen. Hetzer is looking to score individually in the longer free events. Harris is seeded to make the A final in the 100 fly, and could score in her other events. Freshman Hannah Ownbey is looking to make some noise in the IM’s, where she could make an A finals appearance in the 400 IM. Carly Cummings will lead the breaststroke group.

Florida

Leah Braswell (junior freestyle/IMer), Vanessa Pearl (junior breaststroke/IMer), Taylor Ault (senior freestyler), Cecilia Porter (freshman breaststroker), Elise Bauer (freshman freestyler), Talia Bates (sophomore sprinter), Katie Mack (freshman sprinter) – Leah Braswell has shown in the past two seasons that she can be counted on for a big points haul at SEC’s. The junior is in contention in the 500 free as well as the mile. Bauer has added even more depth to a freestyle group, which already had Ault, setting the Gators up for massive points in the 500 and 1650. Porter is a top-seeded breaststroker, who should make a few A finals appearances. Pearl is the 2nd seed in the 200 IM, and should be in the fight there as well as the 200 breast. Bates has shown off her versatility this season, and we should see 3 A finals appearances out of her.

Georgia

Courtney Harnish (senior freestyler), Dakota Luther (junior butterflier), Olivia Anderson (senior distance), Danielle Dellatorre (senior breaststroker/IMer), Gabi Fa’amausili (senior sprinter), Zoie Hartman (sophomore breaststroker) – Harnish, Hartman, and Luther all enter the meet as the top seed in at least one event. The 1-2 punch of Hartman and Dellatorre could be a massive boost the Bulldogs, as it’s possible they’re both finishing at the top of the A final in the 200 IM and both breaststrokes. Anderson is one of the fastest milers entered in the meet, and could make a 500 free A finals appearance as well. Fa’Amausili should provide plenty of sprint points to UGA as well.

Kentucky

Riley Gaines (junior free/butterflier), Gillian Davey (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Caitlin Brooks (sophomore backstroker), Bailey Bonnett (senior breaststroker), Izzy Gati (junior IM/butterflier) – The graduation of the Asia Seidt and Ali Galyer is impactful, but the Wildcats have strung together impressive dual meet performances this year. Gaines is in contention in the 100 free and 200 free, and will swim either the 50 free or 200 fly as her 3rd event, where she’s a likely A finalist. Davey is highly-seeded in the breaststrokes, and could make an A final appearance in the 200 IM as well. Bonnett posted 2 top-3 finishes at last year’s meet, and will be looking to do so again. Brooks is seeded 2nd in both backstroke events.

LSU

Katarina Milutinovich (sophomore back/freestyler), Summer Stanfield (sophomore IM/freestyler/backstroker), Olivia Taylor (sophmore sprinter), Emilie Boll (senior breaststroker) – Milutinovich is set to bring a haul of sprint points, as she’s seeded to make the B final in the 50 and 100 free. Stanfield is seeded to make the A final in the 200 back, and should bring in points in the 200 IM and 200 free. Taylor is just outside scoring range in the fly events. Boll is right on the edge of the A final in the 100 breast.

Missouri

Sarah Thompson (senior sprinter), Sarah Rousseau (junior diver), Katrina Brathwaite (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Megan Keil (junior sprinter), Meredith Rees (sophomore free/backstroker), Amy Feddersen (sophomore free/backstroker) – Thompson had a breakout season last year, and will look to carry that into this SECs as well. Thompson is the top seed in the 50 free, and is entered in 4 other events. Whichever her other 2 events end up being, Thompson will be in top-3 contention. Between Thompson, Keil, and Fedderson, Mizzou should bring in a very big haul of sprint points. Brathwaite is an A-finals-level breaststroker, and could dip into the A final in the 200 IM as well. Rees is poised to bring in plenty of backstroke points as well.

South Carolina 

Taylor Steele (sophomore breaststroker), Janie Smith (sophomore sprinter), Kaitlyn Porter (freshman butterflier) – Steele is set to score in the 100 breast, and is just outside scoring range in the 200 breast. Smith is right on the edge of scoring range in the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly. Porter is just outside scoring range in the 200 fly.

Tennessee

Mona McSharry (freshman breaststroker), Trude Rothrock (Junior sprinter/IMer), Bailey Grinter (senior sprinter), Tjasa Pintar (senior sprinter), Nikol Popov (senior breaststroker), Amanda Nunan (senior freestyler) – Tennessee lost a king’s ransom to graduation last year, but still finds itself with plenty of scorers. Freshman McSharry has been electric for the Vols, holding the top 100 breast time in the NCAA this season. McSharry is also in contention in the 200 breast, and could Make the A final in the 50 free as well. Grinter and Pintar should combine for a good haul of sprint points, with help from McSharry and Rothrock. Rothrock could swim a few different events, and is an A final threat in all of them. Popov is a potential A finalist in both breaststroke events.

Texas A&M

Chloe Stepanek (freshman sprinter), Jing Quah (senior butterflier), Taylor Pike (senior butterflier), Emma Stephenson (sophomore fly/freestyler), Olivia Theall (freshman butterflier), Aimee Wilson (junior diver) – Stepanek has been nothing short of exemplary for the Aggies in her freshman season. She is the top seed in the 100 free, and is in title contention in the 200 free. Stepanek could also be in the top 3 in the 50. Quah and Pike should provide plenty of points in their senior SECs. Theall is in position for at least B finals appearances in both butterfly events.

Vanderbilt

Tonner DeBeer (junior sprinter), Taylor Ward (sophomore freestyler), Kristen Nutter (sophomore back/butterflier) –  Sophomore Ward is close to scoring range in the distance freestyles. Kaley Buchanan is also near scoring range in the 100 free. DeBeer narrowly missed scoring in several events last year, and could make it through this time around.

SHOWDOWNS

100 breast: This race is not only likely to be a great one between Mona McSharry and Zoie Hartman, but it will also have relevance to the team battle as well. McSharry from Tennessee enters as the top seed, but Hartman from Georgia is right behind and is the defending champion. Hartman’s winning time of 58.21 last year is just slightly faster than McSharry’s seed of 58.28. On top of that, Danielle Dellatorre is seeded in a tie for 3rd, and having two top 3 finishers would be huge for the Bulldogs in this event. The Vols will be looking for McSharry to score them a win, and Nikol Popov to move up and finish ahead of Dellatorre.

400 IM: Tennessee’s Alexis Yager is the top seed in the 400 IM this year, almost 7 seconds off Tess Cieplucha‘s winning time of 4:01.88 from last year. Vanessa Pearl is the fastest returner from last year, having finished runner-up. Bailey Bonnett, Jing Quah, Yager, and Kathleen Golding all return from last year’s A final as well. On the psych sheet, the top 8 are separated by less than 2 seconds, and the graduation of Cieplucha leaves the door wide open for a new champion.

500 free: Courtney Harnish leads the way in the SEC this year with a 4:36.86, but this race is still shaping up to be a thrilling one between Harnish, Leah Braswell, and Kensey McMahon. Harnish has the fastest personal best in the field, but McMahon has been improving steadily, and Leah Braswell has performed well at the SECs the past few years.

SELECTIONS

Swimulator shows the Georgia taking first by 61 points over Tennessee. It should be noted that the Swimulator doesn’t take diving into account, and that the Vols do have a diving advantage over Georgia. The Swimulator has Florida in a relatively distant 3rd, with Kentucky right on their heels. When taking diving into account, the strongest diving teams in the conference, namely Arkansas, Texas A&M, Florida, and Auburn, could help their teams move up in the standings.

SWIMULATOR

Georgia 1086
Tennessee 1025
Florida 902.5
Kentucky 888.5
Alabama 719.5
Texas A&M 635
Missouri 624
Arkansas 520
Auburn 444
LSU 281.5
Vanderbilt 154
South Carolina 146

Relays and diving are certainly set up to be key in crowning this year’s champion. Although we believe this could go either way, we at SwimSwam are rolling with Georgia in what has shaped up to be a very tight team battle. The Bulldogs have the best-positioned relays, and despite Tennessee likely outscoring Georgia in diving, we think the Bulldogs will score enough swimming points to offset the diving deficit. We made a couple minor changes to the Swimulator rankings, putting Texas A&M ahead of Alabama based on the strength of the A&M diving squad. We also put South Carolina over Vanderbilt, although that will likely be a tight battle.

SWIMSWAM PICKS

  1. Georgia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Alabama
  7. Mizzou
  8. Arkansas
  9. Auburn
  10. LSU
  11. South Carolina
  12. Vanderbilt

 

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SwimFani
7 months ago

LADY VOLS by 27 points for the win

Don’t know anything
7 months ago

Oh boy, I dont’t think the swimulator took a look at some other LVs that swam the UT-GA meet, particularly in distance events. They aren’t mentioned. LV depth will win it all!

VFL
7 months ago

Tennessee LADY Vols. It’s a distinction Lady Vol athletes across all sports pride themselves on.

Can’t wait to see them defend the trophy. Teams better hope they can steal it this year, cause Tennessee is going to be STACKED the next couple of years.

SwimFani
Reply to  VFL
7 months ago

I agree with your assessment! Our LADY Vols are closing the gap on UVA and it will get interesting over the next couple years. Great coaches, great program and a great place to go to school.

Brendan Dassey
7 months ago

Let’s go Bama Women!! Roll Tide!