TUSCALOOSA, AL., Feb. 23. DEFENDING CHAMPS Georgia (women) and Auburn (men) have climbed to the top of the heap after the third day of competition at the Southeastern Conference Championships here today.
Georgia, seeking its fifth-consecutive conference crown and — perhaps — a third-straight NCAA Championship — holds a not-quite 40-point advantage over Auburn (494 to 455.5) with Florida a solid third (404.5) . Although it has won six of the last seven men's titles, Coach David Marsh's Lady War Eagles have yet to win their first SEC Championship.
Quadruple defending men's champ, Auburn, leads with 543 points, more than 100 ahead of Tennessee at 440. Third in the men's race is Florida (376.5), which, like Auburn and Georgia, has the same coach for both the men's and women's teams — in this case former Bolles head man Greg Troy.
Auburn soph Maggie Bowen got the War Eagles off to a fast start tonight by racing to a win in the 400 IM with a pr and school-record 4:08.27, knocking off some three seconds from her old pr and school record 4:11.32 from last year's SECs.
Florida's Greg Reeves followed suit by winning the men's 400 IM in a pr 3:43.13, fastest nartionally, but shy of the Gators' school record of 3:42.36 by Greg Burgess — which was also the American-NCAA record until a guy named Dolan came along and went 3:38+ six years ago. Auburn's Kevin Clements was runner-up (pr and school record 3:43.45) with South Carolina's Hungarian Olympic import, Istvan Bathazi, third in 3:46.84.
Tennessee senior Pam Hanson, who is having the best year of her career this season, scored an impresive win in the 100 fly with her pr and school-record 53.27, followed by LSU's Mandy Leach, whose 53.49 was also a pr and school record.
On the men's side Auburn's Andy Haidinyak won a very close race in 47.13. Tennessee's Justin Hoggatt was second in 47.28. South Carolina's Szolt Gaspar, the top qualifier at 47.27, was third in 47.33, while Auburn's Jeff Somensatto placed fourth in 47.47 after swimming 47.31 in prelims.
The 200 free saw South Carolina make its initial appearance atop the leader board via a win from another of its fast Hungarians, this time freshman Tamas Szucs winning in a pr 1:36.44. There was a mad scarmble for second with Kentucky's Macon White taking silver in 1:36.81, one-hundredth of a second ahead of Florida's Nate Summers (1:36.82) while Alabama's Oren Azrad was fourth in 1:36.94. Georgia's Nicolas Kintz won consols in 1:36.83.
The women's race was a one-two-three Georgia benefit, with Stefanie Williams first (1:46.05), followed by defending NCAA champion Maritza Correia (1:46.48) and rookie Julie Hardt (1:47.28).
Alabama's German import, Olympian Anna Poleska, came from fourth place at the halfway mark to set a pr and school record 1:00.93 in winning the 100 breast, just out-touching Georgia junior Ashley Roby (1:00.94).
The men's 100 breast outcome was something of an upset as Tennessee's Jeremy McDonnell edged out Auburn's Dave Denniston and Olympian Pat Calhoun, 53.11-53.20-53.27. Denniston was the race's top qualifier (53.15) with Calhoun next (53.31).
Georgia freshman Nekra Mabry won the 100 back (pr 54.64) with Tenessee's Hanson next (54.94). Auburn frosh, Taylor Spivey, had the fastest time of the day, 54.21, in prelims. In the finals, she opened a commanding lead at the 50–touching in 26.24, 13-hundredths faster than she split in the morning–but she faded to fourth.
On the men's side Vol Michael Gilliam, defending champ and SEC record holder, won in 46.54. However, in the prelims Gilliam went a smashing pr, school- and SEC record 46.43 — tops nationally. In the very next swimming event, Gilliam lowered his time to 46.37 in leading off Tennessee's 400 medley relay. Gilliam has his eye on Texas' Neil Walker's American-NCAA 44.92, which was done in the prelims of the medley relay. In the finals Walker went a 45.07 and the following day in the 100 back race itself won in 45.25 — the three fastest 100 backs of all-time.
Auburn blazed to an SEC record in winning the 400 medley relay. The team of backstroker Jon Karr (48.28), breaststroker Dave Denniston (52.37), flyer Andy Hadinyk (46.46) and freestyler Greg Busse (42.59) stopped the clock in 3:09.70. Tennessee was right behind in 3:10.04, as backstroker Gilliam set an SEC record and nation-leading time of 46.37. Jeremy McDonnell split a very fast 52.49 for the breaststroke leg.
Auburn won the women's medley relay as well. The team of Taylor Spivey (backstroke, 54.41), Maggie Bowen (breaststroke, 59.91), Demera Christianson (fly, 53.59) and Eileen Caparopa (free, 48.63) won in 3:36.94. Georgia was second in 3:37.64, as Keegan Walkley turned in the fastest fly split (53.03) and Maritza Correia notched the fastest freestyle split (48.56).
Team scores at the end of Day Three:
1. Georgia 494
2. Auburn 455.5
3. Florida 404.5
4. Alabama 283
5. Tennessee 219
6. Kentucky 206
7. Louisiana State 180
8. South Carolina 175.5
9. Arkansas 112.5
1. Auburn 543
2. Tennessee 440
3. Florida 376.5
4. Georgia 275.5
5. Kentucky 242
6. Louisiana State 207
7. South Carolina 205
8. Alabama 137