ATHENS, Georgia, December 5. THE NUMBER 1-ranked University of Georgia women's swimming and diving splashed to an impressive victory as the annual Bulldog Invitational wrapped up here this evening at Gabrielsen Natatorium.
The Lady 'Dawgs amassed 1288 points to win, followed by Cal (893) and Minnesota (597).
Minnesota won the men's competition with 1,215.5 points followed by Forida State (860.5) and the host Bulldogs with 673 points.
The Lady Bulldogs won all six swimming events in tonight's final session, while Chris Colwill and Gil Stovall were individual winners for the men on Sunday afternoon. Colwill capped an impressive weekend with a first-place finish in the platform diving event to give him three wins during the invitational.
"I'm real proud of the team," said Georgia coach Jack Bauerle. "They all raced really hard. The entire meet was very competitive. With Minnesota and Cal-Berkeley being here, it was a good meet.
"We're a little deep on both sides," added Bauerle. "We're a little young on the men's side. They have to grow up fast, but I think they will."
Laura Conway was one of three Lady Bulldogs to finish in the top five of the 1650-freestyle, as the junior from Macon won with a pr and NCAA automatic qualifying time of 16:07.69 — No. 2 nationally. Anna Miller and Claire Maust finished third and fifth, respectively. Conway also finished eighth in the 200 yard butterfly.
"Certainly Laura Conway did a good job today, turning around for the 200 fly (after winning the 1650 freestyle earlier in the day)," said Bauerle.
Defending NCAA 200 fly champ Mary Descenza, a World Championship finalist last year in this race, won a pair of events.
The star junior 'Dawg touched first in the 200 yard backstroke in a pr 1:56.06, then returned to the pool two events later to win the 200 butterfly in 1:56.37. Descenza rarely swims the 200 back in competition and had never before been under 2:00.0.
She's the Georgia and Southeastern Conference record-holder in both the 100 and 200 flys (51.70/1:53.93). In the 100 only Cal's Natalie Coughlin (50.01) and ex-Stanford starts Jenny Thompson (51.07), Misty Hyman (51.34) and Shelly Ripple (51.50) have ever swum faster.
In the 200 fly Descenza ranks eighth all-time (performers) and 13th (performances), both from SECs last February. Right behind her at 1:54.00 is defending Pac-10 champ Dana Kirk, an Athens Olympian. The American/NCAA-record is 1:51.92 by Coughlin from the Tiger Invitational at Auburn two years ago this month, and the second-fastest performance is former USC Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno's 1:52.63 Pac-10 record at Belmont Plaza this past February.
'Dawg sophomore Kara Lynn Joyce, defending NCAA 50-100 free champ and also an Athens Olympian, led the way in the 100 freestyle as four Georgia ladies finished in the top six. Joyce won the event in 49.07, followed by froshwomanfreshman Amanda Weir (third), Paige Kearns (fifth) and Andrea Georoff (sixth).
Lindsey Ertter added her list to the names of Lady Bulldog winners, as the senior touched first in 2:14.28 to win the 200-yard breaststroke.
"Certainly Kara Lynn (Joyce) and Mary Descenza had great meets, and I think Paige Kearns had one of the best meets of her career," offered Bauerle.
In the diving well, Emily Hunter and Sara Hershman finished fifth and sixth, respectively, on the women's platform.
"Our springboards were great, but we're still not platform-ready," said Georgia diving coach Dan Laak. "We're not too far, though, from where we were last year when we finished well on platform. I feel good about it."
* * * * *
Peter Verhoef led a 1-2-3 finish in the consolation final of the 100 backstroke. Stovall blew away the competition in the 200-yard butterfly, as he won the event in 1:46.04, which was more than three and a half seconds faster than the second-place finisher. Georgia had two representatives in the 100-yard freestyle final, as Damian Alleyne and Verhoef finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
"The swims of the day would have to go to Peter Verhoef and Gil Stovall," offered Bauerle.
Stovall, a freshman from the Memphis Tigers USS team, had adapted well to the college regimen and, Bauerle believes, will make his presence known at NCAAs. Keep an eye out for him at the '08 Olympic Trials too.
In addition to Colwill's win on the platform, senior Todd Avery completed a runner-up sweep, as he finished second in all the diving events this weekend.
"The guys did fantastic going 1-2 in all three events," added Laak. "I'm real pleased with the guys. Chris (Colwill) was phenomenal, and Todd (Avery) was as good as he's been in two years."
Matt Owen was the top Bulldog finisher in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:52.60. Miguel Mendoza finished 12th in 16:01.17.
"On the men's side, we had great performances from Scott Gardner and Peter Verhoef," said Bauerle. "Chris (Colwill) and Todd (Avery) did a great job on the boards."
The Georgia Fall Invitational marked the final event of the calendar year for the swimming and diving program. Georgia will kick off the New Year at the Georgia Diving Invitational Jan. 3-5. The next dual meet will be Jan. 7, as the men and women host SEC foe Alabama at noon.
Final Team Scores
1. Minnesota, 1215.5
2. Florida State, 860.5
3. Georgia, 673
4. Harvard, 492
5. Emory, 275
6. Michigan State, 267
7. California (divers only), 60
8. Virginia Tech (divers only), 29
1. Georgia, 1288
2. California, 893
3. Minnesota, 597
4. Florida State, 472
5. Notre Dame, 272
6. Michigan State, 247
7. Emory, 90
8. Virginia Tech (divers only), 48