COLLEGE STATION, Texas, January 12. THE defending national champion Auburn University swimming and diving teams wrapped up their Texas road swing with a trio of wins Saturday at Texas A&M. Auburn’s No. 8-ranked men dominated the No. 20 Aggies, 210-90, while the top-ranked women pulled out wins over No. 6 Texas A&M (155-139) and No. 12 Southern Methodist (218-72).
The men improve to 2-2 on the season in dual meets while the women stay perfect at 5-0. The Tigers return to action Jan. 26 with a 1 p.m. dual meet at SEC rival Florida.
Competing with out two of the team’s top swimmers, Ava Ohlgren and Julianne McLane, the No. 1-ranked Auburn women’s swimming and diving team battled from behind in the last two events to take the win over the Aggies.
Down three points with two events left, Emily Kukors, Erica Meissner and Melanie Roberts all finished in the top four of the 200 IM, with Kukors taking the win, giving Auburn a seven-point cushion going into the 400 free relay.
In the final relay, Auburn held the top two spots for the first half of the event, but Texas A&M battled back to take over second place. The relay team of Caitlin Geary, Kara Denby, Emile Ewing and Kukors were able to hold them off for the win, giving the Tigers the 155-139 win.
Against SMU, Auburn jumped out to an early lead and never looked back as the Tigers picked up the 218-72 win.
“We had a great time today, we started off a little bit slow, but what I saw today was a prepared team, ready to rise to the challenge in a very festive environment,” said Tierney-Walker about her team’s performance and the excited crows at the Texas A&M Student Recreation Center Natatorium.
“I was real proud to see people like Erica Meissner, Melissa Marik, Melanie Roberts, Margo McCawley, Josefin Wede, Maggie Bird and Micah Martindale step up,” said Tierney-Walker. “People stepped up that haven’t maybe assumed that role in the past. I like to think that we are moving in the right direction.”
One of the biggest forces for Auburn in the pool was Kukors. The senior from Auburn, Wash., came out and swam three NCAA automatic-qualifying times in her three individual wins (200 free, 200 fly and 200 IM) while also swimming anchor on the winning 400 free relay team at the end of the meet.
“Emily proved that she probably is our biggest team leader here,” said Tierney-Walker. “We had a couple individuals that were not able to join us today and Emily knew that and won three events that she needed to win, stayed focused and was able to anchor the final relay. It is a real testament to her character how she performed today.”
Kukors said the meet was just a case of recognizing what her team needed out of her and trying to step into that role.
“I knew that we needed leadership from the front, right from the very beginning,” said Kukors. “My first two events were kind of close, so I just went after it. The closer the meet got, the more I knew that I needed to put some moves together at the end. I think as a team, we grew tremendously, especially missing Julianne and Ava.”
As for the meet-ending relay, Kukors said it was just a matter of the team knowing what needed to happen for the win.
“I knew that we wanted to go out with a win in the final event, regardless of our position. The three girls ahead of me did a great job of setting us up and I just put my head down in that last 50 yards and made sure my hand was there first,” said Kukors.
In all, Auburn’s women swam three “A” cut times and 24 “B” cuts while seven wins in the three-team meet. Kukors, Micah Martindale, Melissa Marik and Maggie Bird all picked up individual wins for Auburn
“It was an awesome effort with our women’s program today,” said co-head women’s coach Richard Quick. “Emily Kukors was simply out of sight, she carried this team today and gave everybody energy. We also had a lot of great individual performances, a wonderful team effort, but it was an amazing performance by Emily Kukors.”
On the men’s side, Auburn was looking to make a statement after its close loss to No. 1-ranked Texas on Thursday – a meet that went down to the final relay. The Tigers did just that as Auburn won the first five events of the meet, and all but three of the events it competed in, en route to the 210-90 win over No. 20 Texas A&M.
“What we were looking for was consistency from our performance in the Texas meet into Texas A&M,” said head coach Richard Quick. “Texas A&M is building their men’s program, we felt good about our chances going into the meet, but what we were looking for is continued growth and I think we saw it.”
Part of that continued growth is a balanced attack in every event of the meet. Auburn was led by 12 different individuals in the 16-event meet, including four top finishes by freshmen.
“I like the consistency of the performance between the two meets this week and that’s what we were looking for on the men’s side,” said Quick. “We experimented with a new lineup, some different events for some different people, and those people stepped up and did some real good things and we were very happy to see that.”
Robert Looney, Cesar Cielo, Scott Goodrich, Michael Silva, Alexei Puninski, Kohlton Norys, Adam Klein, Will Dove and Adam Mitchell all earned wins in swimming events for Auburn. Kelly Marx and Dan Mazzaferro split the diving events with Mazzaferro winning on the 3-meter with a career-best 378.80.