COLLEGE STATION, Texas, February 20. THE Auburn men, and the Georgia women ended day two of the Southeastern Conference Championships in College Station, Texas, in the lead in their respective title quests.
Freshman Matias Koski of Georgia raced to the finish with a winning time of 4:14.28 in the men's 500-yard freestyle to kick off the evening. That's his first SEC title, and the top time in the country at the NCAA level. For comparison's sake, high schooler Jack Conger went a bit faster two weeks ago at Metros as the Texas-commit broke the national high school record with a 4:13.87. South Carolina junior Michael Flach raced to second in 4:15.32, while Auburn junior Zane Grothe rounded out the top three with a 4:15.44. Florida senior Jason Taylor also cleared 4:16 to take fourth in 4:15.69.
In what proved to be an extremely exciting finish, Texas A&M sophomore Sarah Henry emerged from ACL surgery just a year ago with a 4:35.25 to win the women's 500-yard free, touching out Georgia sophomore Amber McDermott (4:35.82) for the win. Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt of Georgia cruised in with a 4:36.54 to take third overall, as it is obvious she's saving her best for NCAAs.
The men's 200-yard IM featured a stunning disqualification as Florida junior Marcin Cieslak witnessed his win evaporate after officials caught him taking too many dolphin kicks off the breaststroke pullout. Something the entire breaststroke community hopes continues to be caught. Georgia freshman Chase Kalisz, a mid-season addition after clearing up some minor academic hurdles, claimed his first SEC title with a 1:43.04. Sophomore teammate Nic Fink gave the Bulldogs huge points with a second-place 1:43.42, while Auburn senior Kyle Owens claimed third in 1:43.45.
Georgia remained on a roll, with its third win in fourth events, as junior Melanie Margalis touched out Florida junior Elizabeth Beisel, 1:54.55 to 1:54.59. That's a big time victory for Margalis, as she topped the Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter IM and bronze medalist in the 200-meter back. Texas A&M's junior Carolina McElhany turned in a third-place time of 1:55.97.
Auburn junior Marcelo Chierighini kept up the Auburn sprinting tradition by blasting a ridiculous 18.88 to win the men's 50-yard free after already clocking a swift 18.92 in prelims. With Chierighini and Florida junior Bradley deBorde posting a 9.26 and 9.28 at the turn, Chierighini powered home with a 9.62 while deBorde posted a 9.84 en route to a 19.12 for second. Texas A&M senior John Dalton finished third in 19.56. Notably, Auburn junior James Disney-May ripped off a 19.60 to win the B final.
In yet another exciting finale for the women, Tennessee freshman Faith Johnson and Georgia freshman Chantal Van Landeghem deadheated in the women's splash-and-dash with matching 21.90s in the 50-yard free. Tennessee senior Caroline Simmons gave the Lady Volunteers two of the top three times with a sizzling 21.97, while Georgia sophomore Maddie Locus just missed the top three with a fourth-place 22.13.
During the diving finale, Missouri's Loren Figueroa nailed her final round dive to surge to victory with 315.45 on the one-meter springboard event. Texas A&M senior Rebecca St. Germain finished second with 312.40 points, while South Carolina's Patty Kranz wound up third with 307.25 points.
Chierighini did it again in the 50-yard freestyle leadoff for Auburn as the Tigers blazed their way to a 1:16.23 to win the 200-yard freestyle relay. Chierighini clocked a scintillating 18.85 to lead the nation, while Disney-May (19.28), TJ Leon (19.27) and Owens (18.83) each posted sterling splits of their own.
Florida's deBorde (19.33), Pawel Werner (19.49), Corey Main (19.22) and Matt Curby (19.22) raced to second in 1:17.26, while Texas A&M's Henrik Lindau (19.83), John Dalton (19.16), Cory Bolleter (19.67) and Kyle Troskot (19.29) took third in 1:17.95.
Georgia pulled a bit of an upset over Tennessee in the women's 200-yard freestyle as the Lady Volunteers looked to be unstoppable in this relay after results from the 50-yard free were complete. Someone forgot to tell UGA's Megan Romano that, as the senior continued to add to her legacy as one of the best collegiate relay legs in women's swimming history.
With Tennessee in the lead, 1:05.17 to 1:05.90, heading into the final leg, Romano overhauled Lindsay Gendron (21.96) with a stunning 20.99 anchor leg. Her time, along with Maddie Locus (22.12), Chantal VanLandeghem (21.69) and Allison Schmitt (22.09) gave the Bulldogs the win in 1:26.89. Tennessee's Caroline Simmons (22.13), Faith Johnson (21.47), Kelsey Floyd (21.57) and Gendron put together a second-place 1:27.13. Florida's Ellese Zalewski, Sinead Russell, Lindsey McKnight and Natalie Hinds posted a 1:27.98 to take third overall.
Men's Team Scores
Texas A&M 288.5
South Carolina 201
Women's Team Scores
Texas A&M 464
South Carolina 129