AUBURN, Alabama, February 18. DESPITE only three events being contested during Day 1 of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships, fast times were in order as one American, one US Open, one NCAA, three SEC and four pool records were established Wednesday at the James E. Martin Aquatic Center.
The Auburn men, who captured both the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays, lead the team standings with 118 points followed by Tennessee (110), Florida (87) and Alabama (78).
Florida leads the women’s team scoring with 116 points. The Gators won the 200 medley relay, finished second in the 800 free relay and had three divers score in the 3-meter. Auburn is second in the team standings with 88 points, followed by Tennessee (76), Alabama (75), and Georgia (73).
Highlighting the evening was the Auburn women’s 800 freestyle relay team, who captured the event in an American, US Open and NCAA record time 6:54.02.
“Tactically, it was a very solid swim all around, particularly for our lead-off spot, Ava Ohlgren,” said Auburn women’s coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. “This is her third year leading off in that relay and she has never disappointed. It was good to see that what we have been practicing is being executed in the races.”
Ohlgren, teamed with Caitlin Geary, Melissa Marik and Maggie Bird smashed the previous league standard by three seconds, bettering the mark of 6:57.28 set in 2008.
“We have not been swimming as fast as we could all year and this was a great time to do it (break the record),” Ohlgren said. “I didn’t think I was going quite as fast so I was surprised when I looked up at the board. We switched up the relay a little bit, so it was awesome to break it again.”
The AU quartet of Jared White, Michael Silva, Matt Targett, and Jakob Andkjaer broke the SEC and pool record in the men’s 200 medley relay in 1:23.69, followed by second-place Tennessee in 1:24.62. Both times were the two fastest 200 medley relay times in the country this year. It was the fourth consecutive year the Tiger men have won the event, and the sixth time in the last seven years.
“We mainly wanted to keep the momentum going and were really happy with the way we swam today,” Targett said. “It was quite interesting to defend our title. We did it with four different guys from last year which was great.”
Tyler McGill’s anchor leg helped Auburn’s come-from-behind win in the 800 freestyle relay. McGill clocked a 1:32.97 split as the Tigers won in a pool record 6:18.15 to outdistance second-place Florida, who touched in 6:18.36.
Florida established a new SEC and pool mark in the women’s 200 medley relay, leading wire-to-wire, in 1:36.22. The Gators’ foursome included Gemma Spofforth, Lindsay Rogers, Julianne Lago and anchor Stephanie Napier.
“We swam pretty well today,” Spofforth said. “We weren’t expecting to get an SEC record, but we could not have asked for anything better.”
Alabama’s Aaron Fleshner captured the men’s 1-meter diving with a score of 415.15, the highest point total since 2000. Fleshner’s title was the first on 1-meter by a Crimson Tide diver since Rafael Alvarez in 1995.
“I needed to keep calm and do whatever I could do to keep myself focused,” Fleshner said. “To win this championship feels awesome. Last year, I was second in this event, so to come back and win it this year feels awesome.”
Freshman Carrie Dragland of Alabama, who was in third place after three dives on the women’s 3-meter diving, concluded with three solid dives to capture the event with a score of 366.50.
“Winning a championship for my team is unbelievable, I feel like I am dreaming right now,” Dragland said. “I just went out there and hit all the dives that I could, and I feel like I dove better than I ever have.”
Thursday’s preliminaries will begin at 10 a.m. CT with finals starting at 5:30 p.m. The events being contested on Day 2 include the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay, men’s 3-meter diving and women’s 1-meter diving.
Special thanks to the SEC for contributing this report.