ATHENS, Georgia, February 17. THE 2010 SEC Championships kicked off on Wednesday as the Auburn swimming and diving squad competed at the Gabrielsen Natatorium on the campus of the University of Georgia. The men and Florida are tied for first with 100 points, while the women sit in third overall with 91 points.
"The team came in with a good and very positive attitude," head coach Brett Hawke said. "There was great team chemistry and great support for both swimmers and divers. We had excellent team spirit and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the competition."
The men set the tone from the start as the 200 medley relay squad came away with a first-place finish for the Tigers.
The team of Jared White, Michael Silva, Jordan Anderson and Gideon Louw put together the Auburn's season-best swim in the event, posting a NCAA "A" qualifying time of 1:24.41 to top the time of 1:25.10 posted by second-place Florida.
"Our attitude going into the race was just to beat everybody in every aspect," Anderson said. "We wanted to come out on all cylinders and really set the tone for the entire meet. It's one of our solid relays and we were really proud to come away with the win."
"We pride ourselves in putting fast and skilled swimmers up in our medley relays," Hawke said. "To swim three seconds faster than we've done all year is a great accomplishment."
On the 3-meter springboard, Kelly Marx led the Tigers as the senior recorded a season-best score of 444.15 to secure second place. His score was just five points shy of first-place finisher Aaron Fleshner of Alabama (449.15). Going into the final, Marx had the second-most points after the preliminary round of 408.25.
The silver medal is the second-consecutive runner-up finish for Marx in the event. The Overland Park, Kan., product was the 2008 SEC runner-up on the 3-meter.
"Coming into the final in second was where I wanted to be so that I could put pressure on Aaron," Marx said. "I hit all my dives and did all I could so I can't complain about anything because that is the way diving works. I'm very proud that I went out and did my best to help the team."
"Kelly's last dive forced Aaron to step up and hit one of the most difficult dives out there," head diving coach Jeff Shaffer said. "Kelly made him earn it and I'm very proud of how competitive Kelly was today.
Competing in his first conference championships was freshman diver Thad Ellis. The Atlanta native advanced to the final after putting together a score of 355.60 in the preliminary round and came away with eighth in the finals with 345.10 points.
"This is a tough conference and to be in the finals as a freshman in his first event is very commendable accomplishment for Thad," Shaffer said.
Finishing the meet was the team of Christopher Fox, Pascal Wollach, Will Dove and Tyler McGill. The quad took third in the 800 free relay with a NCAA "B" cut time of 6:25.67, setting the fastest time this season for the Tigers. In his 200 free leadoff split, Fox's mark of 1:37.05 was a career-best and a NCAA "B" time.
A pair of women divers advanced to the 1-meter springboard finals for Auburn. Highlighting the event was the performance of sophomore Anna Aguero, who earned the silver medal with a career-best score of 320.30. Aguero's mark also tied the Auburn school record in the event, a score set previously by Ashley Rubenstein on Feb. 20, 2003.
"I was so excited to have made the finals," Aguero said. "I wanted to get the team started off on the right note and it really feels great to win the silver medal for the team."
"Anna did a tremendous job out there," Shaffer said. "I'm really proud of her and she dove beautifully.
Sophomore Vennie Dantin also competed in the diving final. After tallying a career-best score of 303.85 in the preliminary round, Dantin came away with a seventh-place finish score of 296.90.
"It was a great day for us to come in and go four-for-four and have everyone qualify for the finals," Shaffer said. "It really helped lead the way for the team coming into tonight's competition. "
The quartet of Melissa Marik, Micah Martindale, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Hannah Riordan opened the meet with a fourth-place finish in the 200 medley relay. The squad finished in a NCAA "B" time of 1:38.32.
Auburn women closed competition with the 800 free relay and took third in the event. The team of Ava Ohlgren, Caitlin Geary, Becca Jones and Maggie Bird finished in a season-best and NCAA "B" cut time of 7:09.58.
Ohlgren's leadoff 200 free split of 1:48.16 set a 2009-10 best and a "B" time for the senior captain.
Competition continues at the SEC Championships Thursday with the men's 1-meter, women's 3-meter, 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and 200 free relay.
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