PHOENIX, Arizona, February 19. THE first major Division I college conference championships began earlier this morning with diving preliminaries at the Southeastern conference championships at Texas A&M University. Swimming kicks off tonight with timed finals in the 200 medley relay and the 800 free relay. This is Texas A&M's first season in the SEC, and the first time Missouri will be in the SEC meet as well. The addition of two new teams is part of the reason why the meet is now five days long instead of four, which is two days longer than the NCAA championships. Scoring will also be different for this meet, as the top 24 swimmers in each event will contribute points for their team, another deviation from the NCAA championship format. The men from Auburn are looking for their 17th consecutive team title, while Georgia's women's team is going for a fourth-straight win. Some of the individuals to watch include Olympic champion Allison Schmitt, who has yet to post any NCAA qualifying times but should do so this week; Shannon Vreeland, Schmitt's teammate at Georgia and on the 800 free relay in London; Marcelo Chierghini, who will lead Auburn's sprint group with likely wins in the 50 and 100 freestyles; Sebastien Rousseau, who will be a force in middle distance events; and Elizabeth Beisel, who already has her NCAA cuts but will still race well in the hunt for a team title.
The women's Atlantic Coast Conference championships begin tomorrow in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Olympian Abby Johnston will not be there to help Duke, as she had shoulder surgery last week and is sitting out the season. This will mark her second redshirt season, as she sat out last year to train for the Olympics. That decision turned out very well, as she won a silver medal with Kelci Bryant in the synchro 3-meter in London.
Down Under in Australia, the two independent reviews looking into the structure and leadership of Swimming Australia were released today. Both reviews suggest some major changes that need to be made, including new processes on choosing leaders and more stringent policies on how athletes communicate through social media. You can read our article about the reviews, and read them, on swimmingworld.com.