KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, November 20. SOPHOMORE Jenny Connolly won the 100y back, as the Tennessee women's swimming and diving team moved up from fourth to third at the Tennessee Invitational on Friday.
The Lady Vols have 543.5 points, just 31 points out of first-place, heading into Saturday's final day of competition at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. Kentucky is leading with 574.5 points, while Virginia Tech is in second (548.5) and Alabama is fourth (507.5).
Connolly nabbed Tennessee's first victory of the meet by edging Kentucky's Chatham Penrod's by .03 in her signature event, touching the wall in 54.40, a season best and NCAA ‘B' cut.
"Jenny's 100 backstroke was a great swim," Lady Vol head coach Matt Kredich said. "She refused to be beat and squeezed as much as she could out of that race. I haven't seen anybody who can beat Jenny when she is focused and sets her mind on winning."
The West Lafayette, Ind., native also finished third in the 100y fly in a season-best and ‘B' cut time of 54.28 and teamed with seniors Michele King and Alex Barsanti and freshman Kelsey Floyd to grab runner-up in the 200y medley relay with another season-best ‘B' cut performance (1:41.04). Additionally, Connolly, Floyd and King teamed with freshman Brooke Watson to place third in the 800y free relay (7:28.81).
In the separate UT Diving Invitational, sophomores Jodie McGroarty and Gabbi Trudeau finished 2-3 behind Alabama's Carrie Dragland, the reigning SEC Diver of the Year.
McGroarty scored a season-best 337.90, while Trudeau was awarded a career-best 318.75. Dragland took first with a 339.05 tally.
"I'm pleased overall with our performances today," UT head diving coach Dave Parrington. "Jodie did great, taking it down to the wire against the defending SEC champion (Dragland). I thought it was going to be a tough battle on the women's side, and I was right. I'm really pleased with where we are at this point season."
In the pool, Floyd joined Connolly as one of the stars of the day for the Lady Vols. The Lexington, Ky., native competed in a UT-best five races. In addition to swimming on both relays, she placed third and earned season-bests in the 100y back (55.29) and 200y free (1:50.48), and finished fourth in the 100y fly (55.60). Her time in the 100y back was also a ‘B' cut.
In the 100y breast, seniors Alex Barsanti and Jamie Saffer finished second and fourth, respectively. Barsanti's time (1:02.69) was a season best and a ‘B' cut, while Saffer's readout (1:03.08) just missed ‘B' cut status. Sophomore Samara Gelb recorded a season best in the 100y breast (1:04.22), finishing sixth.
Junior Aleksa Akerfelds placed third in the 400y IM, swimming a season-best 4:22.41, while sophomore Tori Richmond also clocked a season-best (4:24.70) en route to finishing fourth.
Kredich said he was pleased to see his team come into day two of the competition with more focus and confidence.
"We needed to put ourselves out in front of our races more," Kredich said. "We were much more aggressive tonight. When our team races with confidence we are tough to beat. Every session has gotten better at this meet, and we were really tough tonight. Our plan is to win tomorrow."
The Tennessee Invitational will wrap up on Saturday with prelims at 9 a.m. and a finals session at 3 p.m. Live results can be found at utladyvols.com and divemeets.com.
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