AUBURN, Alabama, October 20. AUBURN's swimming & diving team kept rolling in early-season action Saturday morning, winning 30 of 32 events in a decisive victory over LSU at the James E. Martin Aquatic Center.
The Auburn men went a perfect 16-for-16 on the day to post a 213-87 victory; with a sweep of all 13 events against Alabama last week, the Tiger men are 29-for-29 on the season. On the women's side, Auburn won all 14 swimming events and got two runner-up finishes in diving to earn a 218.5-78.5 win.
“We came in today and won a lot of close races,” Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. “That's always great to see in a meet like this in the early season. We had a lot of really great swims as well. Everybody's tired right now and not feeling great in the water, but they're racing really tough and coming together as a team. And that's good to see.
“It's always good to shut a team out, and we did that in the pool. The divers performed really well, too. We haven't done this in a while where we've shut a couple of teams out a couple of weeks in a row. There's some really good signs right now for this team, and if we keep coming together and keep working hard, we're going to get better.”
Junior Marcelo Chierighini, the defending SEC Swimmer of the Week, ran his winning streak to seven straight races to open the season. The team of Kyle Owens, Stuart Ferguson, Chierighini and TJ Leon opened the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay (1:29.41), and then the team of Chierighini, James Disney-May, Owens and Leon closed the day with a dominating performance in the 200 freestyle relay (1:20.84).
In between, Chierighini was unstoppable in the sprints. He clocked a 20.04 to win the 50 free by more than half a second, then came back one event later to clock a 43.77 in the 100 free, outpacing the nearest LSU competitor by nearly two seconds.
“Marcelo was a stud again,” Hawke said. “Really fast for this time of year. There were a lot of close races; getting our hands on the wall in the last 25 (yards) is a really good sign.”
One of those close races belonged to junior Zane Grothe. Swimming the 200 butterfly for the first time since last fall, Grothe made up more than a full second in the final 50 yards and posted a blistering 27.66 split to touch the wall in 1:49.94, out-touching LSU's Frank Greeff by about half a second. It was one of three wins on the day for Grothe, who also won the 1,000 free (9:24.06) and cruised to victory in the 500 free (4:30.08).
Owens also posted two individual wins to go with the two relays. The Johnson City, Tenn., native rolled to a two-second victory in the 100 backstroke (48.01) and came back with another dominating victory in the 200 IM (1:50.66). In the 200 IM, he led a sweep of the top three spots with Alex Hancock (1:52.29) and Tommy McKee (1:55.65).
Senior captain Stuart Ferguson came through with a pair of wins in the 100 breast (55.88) and 200 breast (2:02.61), putting down a 31.38 final split to overcome a slight deficit at the 150-yard mark.
Auburn's men's divers swept the boards as sophomore Fraser McKean earned his first collegiate win on the 1-meter board with a career-best score of 367.88. Junior John Santeiu came through in the 3-meter event with a 382.13, just missing a career-best score of his own.
Other men's winners for Auburn included James Disney-May (200 free — 1:40.35); Brandon Siemasko (200 back — 1:49.95) and TJ Leon (100 fly — 50.01).
On the women's side, the Auburn swimmers went 14-for-14, running their record to 24-for-25 in the pool so far this year. The Tigers spread the victories around with nine different swimmers earning individual wins.
Junior Olivia Scott posted three wins on the day, swimming in three consecutive races to close out the meet. She cruised to victory in the 100 fly with a time of 53.71; sophomore Megan Fonteno took runner-up honors in 56.21. Scott then came right back after the diving break to post another dominating victory in the 200 IM (2:01.59), winning by almost four full seconds.
One event later, Scott swam the second leg of the 200 freestyle relay along with Emily Bos, Haley Krakoski and Hannah Riordan to earn the final win of the day in 1:32.29. The 'B' relay team of Becca Jones, Aubrey Peacock, Lindsey Norberg and Fonteno took the runner-up spot in 1:33.90.
Riordan finished with three wins on the day as well. In addition to her win on the final relay, she swept the sprint free events with a 50.21 in the 100 free (Krakoski was second in 50.41) and a 23.09 in the 50 free.
Another senior, Katie Gardocki, stayed unbeaten in the distance freestyle events this year. She won the 1,000 free by 16 seconds with a time of 10:08.69, then took top honors in the 500 free with a 4:58.32, teaming with Jones (5:00.19) for a sweep of the top two spots.
Led by freshman Jillian Vitarius, the “Baby Backstrokers” were unstoppable yet again. Vitarius led a sweep of the top four spots in the 100 back with a winning time of 54.40, with Bos taking second (55.12) and fellow freshmen Sarah Reynolds (55.60) and Caitlyn Forman (55.65) third and fourth. In the 200 back, it was another sweep of the top four spots with Vitarius cruising to a win in 1:56.98. Reynolds was the runner-up (2:00.39), junior Aubrey Peacock took third (2:01.44) and Forman was fourth (2:02.16).
Lindsey Norberg and Fonteno joined Bos and Lauren Norberg to propel the Auburn 'B' team in the 200 medley relay to an upset over the 'A' squad with a time of 1:41.76.
Other individual winners for Auburn's women were Becca Jones (200 free — 1:48.71), Lauren Norberg (100 breast – 1:02.45), Sarah Peterson (200 fly — 2:01.60) and Micah Lawrence (200 breast — 2:12.33). Sophomore Cinzia Calabretta led the Auburn women's divers with a pair of runner-up finishes on the 1-meter and 3-meter board, posting a career-best 285.75 in the 1M event and career-best 297.08 on the 3M board. LSU freshman Cassie Weil set a school record with a 372.68 in the 3-meter event.
Auburn's men will have next week off from competition, but the Tiger women will be back in action next Friday at home. Auburn will host Notre Dame in a dual meet at 4 p.m. at the James E. Martin Aquatic Center.
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