AUBURN, Alabama, November 22. AUBURN and Georgia competed for supremacy on the first night of competition at the Auburn Invitational, with the Tigers showing off their sprint prowess and the Bulldogs showcasing strengths in the 200 IM and 500 free.
Auburn won the opening events of the meet, the 200 free relay. The women’s foursome of Allyx Purcell (22.44), Emily Bos (21.85), Megan Fonteno (22.17) and Aubrey Peacock (22.18) posted a 1:28.64 to hold off a monster 21.50 anchor leg by Georgia’s Chantal van Landeghem to almost upset Auburn and place second with a 1:28.70. Van Landeghem’s anchor leg is notable in that it’s .17 faster than she swam at last season’s NCAA championships, where Georgia was second behind Tennessee.
The Auburn men are the reigning NCAA champions in the 200 free relay and three of the four members of that squad are back to work toward defending that title in March. Led by a 19.33 from Marcelo Chierighini to put the Tigers in a big lead, James Disney-May (19.05), TJ Leon (10.53) and Kyle Darmody (19.31) followed up with a 1:17.22 to post an automatic NCAA qualifying time. Auburn’s B team of Arthur Mendes, Alex Press, Youssef Hammoud and Alexander Hancock placed second with a 1:19.81 and Georgia was third with a 1:19.95.
Responding to the 4:36.40 Stephanie Peacock posted yesterday in the 500 free at the Nike Cup, Georgia’s Amber McDermott won tonight in Auburn with a 4:35.72. It’s now the fastest in the collegiate ranks and gives her an automatic bid to the championship meet. McDermott also put up a time that is less than a second slower than the time she swam at the NCAA meet last March to place second behind the graduated Haley Anderson. Georgia swept the top three places in the event, as Shannon Vreeland took second with a 4:38.54 and Brittany MacLean was third in 4:38.93. Vreeland and MacLean were less than two seconds from the automatic qualifying time of 4:37.01.
Georgia’s Matias Koski found himself in a tight battle with Australian Ned McKendry in the men’s 500 free final. McKendry, training with the postgrad group at Auburn, led the race for 400 yards just a tick ahead of Koski before falling to second in the final stretch. Koski won with a 4:17.82 to McKendry’s 4:17.90. Georgia’s Will Freeman was also in the race, finishing a close third with a 4:18.36. Notably, none of the finalists beat the NCAA qualifying time of 4:15.29.
Melanie Margalis of Georgia got the meet back on the path of securing automatic NCAA qualifiers with a scorching time of 1:54.08 to win the 200 IM. It’s a lifetime best by five tenths of a second for the senior, and the second-fastest time of the season behind Maya DiRado’s 1:53.50 from last night. Margalis is having a strong season and will be one of the contenders to succeed the graduated Caitlin Leverenz as NCAA champion.
Georgia finished 1-2-3 in the 200 IM, which was not necessarily a surprise, nor was the fact that Chase Kalisz won the race in 1:43.32, just three tenths of his personal best and beating the automatic qualifying time by six hundredths of a second. Tynan Stewart’s 1:43.90 for second place was the surprise of the race, slicing five tenths off his personal best that he swam at last season’s NCAA championships in placing 18th, just two tenths away from a second swim. Nic Fink, preparing for the Duel in the Pool next month (as is Kalisz), placed third with a 1:46.33.
Soon after her inspired anchor leg in the 200 free relay, Van Landeghem won the 50 free with a 22.17 over teammate Olivia Smoliga’s 22.33. Smoliga was racing almost one year to the day since setting the national high school record with a 21.99, which incidentally is the NCAA automatic qualifying time. Those swims put the Georgia sprinters in the top five nationally so far this season. Auburn’s Emily Bos rounded out the top three with a 22.41.
Adam Brown, now back at Auburn to train with the postgrad group after some time back home in England, won the 50 free tonight with a 19.02. That’s about a tenth faster than he swam last weekend to place second at the Arena Grand Prix and three tenths slower than his lifetime best of 18.72 from the 2011 NCAA championships. Marcelo Chierighini, viewed as the top contender for the 50 free NCAA title, was second with a stunning 19.25. In terms of in-season times, it’s among the fastest any college swimmer has posted outside of the conference or NCAA championship meets, and puts the Brazilian in pole position in the collegiate ranks, dropping UNLV’s Dillon Virva’s 19.34 posted 24 hours ago. Finishing third in the 50 free at Auburn was Florida State’s Paul Murray with a 19.68.
The invitational weekend is quickly increasing the number of swimmers under the 20-second barrier, and fourth-place finisher Disney-May joined the club with a 19.71, while Darmody posted a 19.99 for fifth.
Smoliga led off Georgia’s dominating 400 medley relay with a 52.18 backstroke leg, off her lifetime best of 51.43 that stands as the national high school record. Margalis (58.38), Lauren Harrington (53.31) and Van Landeghem (48.17) rounded out the foursome that posted an NCAA qualifying time of 3:32.04. Auburn was a distant second with a 3:37.91, while Georgia’s B team took third with a 3:38.54.
Auburn ended the night with an automatic qualifying time in the men’s 400 medley relay with an impressive 3:09.21, with Florida State hanging on for second with a 3:09.93 to also automatically qualify for NCAAs. Here are the comparative splits for each team:
Joe Patching (back: 46.92)
Michael Duderstadt (breast: 53.34)
Mendes (fly: 46.70)
Chierighini (free: 42.25)
Pavel Sankovich (back: 47.50)
Jared Pike (breast: 52.97)
Connor Knight (fly: 46.69)
Murray (free: 42.77)