AUBURN, Alabama, November 24. THE final day of the Auburn Invitational featured some jaw-dropping performances from Georgia’s and Auburn’s men’s team in the 200 back and 100 free, while yet another strong day for Melanie Margalis.
In the men’s 200 back, Georgia’s Tynan Stewart essentially built into his race, posting faster splits with each passing 50. With a 25.37 in the final 50 yards, he was able to pass Auburn’s Joe Patching at the finish to post a lifetime best 1:40.92 to Patching’s 1:40.98. It’s also a lifetime best for Patching, though he’s making his short course yards racing debut this fall and will likely lower the time even further in the February/March championship season. The times put the two at the top of the collegiate standings, toppling the 1:42.40 David Nolan posted yesterday. With the Texas Invitational and USA Swimming nationals coming up in less than two weeks, we’ll see if these performances hold up as the top times.
Stewart was back later in the session in the 200 fly, and used the same tactic in that race to overpower Florida State’s Connor Knight to the finish and win with a time of 1:43.88 to McKnight’s 1:44.08. Stewart’s time just missed out on being the fastest time of the season, with Chase Kalisz and Marcin Cieslak posting times a few tenths faster a few weeks back. But there’s good news for both of them: The times are major personal bests, by two seconds for Stewart and eight tenths for McKnight.
Later, in the men’s 100 free, Marcelo Chierighini put up a 42.04 to win the event ahead of Auburn postgrad Adam Brown. Chierighini has a 41.51 to his credit from March’s NCAA championships, so there is likely more in the tank from the Brazilian, but it’s still the fastest time of the season. As for Brown, his 42.17 today was a little slower than the 41.89 he posted at the Arena Grand Prix to win against a stacked field of Olympians, but is still a very solid swim. Also swimming well was Auburn’s James Disney-May, who was third with a 43.06, and Florida State’s Paul Murray with a 43.10 for fourth. Chierighini, Disney-May and Murray are the top three in the collegiate ranks so far this season. Also of note was the 43.09 from postgrad Albert Subirats to win the consolation final.
Georgia’s Melanie Margalis won a fourth individual event this weekend, taking the 200 breast in 2:08.10 over teammate Annie Zhu, who was second with a 2:08.35. Margalis’ time is a personal best by a few tenths, but Zhu is still about three seconds off her best, which she posted at the SEC championships earlier this year.
Aubrey Peacock and Jillian Vitarius posted strong swims to give Auburn a 1-2 finish in the women’s 200 back. Peacock won with a time of 1:54.13, with Vitarius right behind with a 1:54.76. Vitarius led by almost a second at 100 yards, but a 28.70 from Vitarius on the third 50 yards put her in the race. McKayla Lightbourn of Florida State rounded out the top three with a 1:55.66.
Georgia took the top two places in the women’s and men’s 1650 freestyles. Brittany MacLean broke 16 minutes with a winning time of 15:58.45 in the women’s event as Amber McDermott followed with a 16:10.53. In the men’s race, Matias Koski held off a surging Will Freeman in the final 650 yards, winning with a 14:56.63 to Freeman’s 14:57.19. Koski was third in the mile at the NCAA championships last March with a 14:42.09, so another big drop is likely to happen. The same is true for Freeman, whose lifetime best is 14:44.38 from the SEC championships in March. Zane Grothe of Auburn tried to stay with the Bulldogs but settled for third with a 15:01.94.
Georgia freshman Olivia Smoliga notched a win in the 100 free with a 48.35, not far off her lifetime best of 47.39 from last December’s USA Swimming nationals. Shannon Vreeland used her middle-distance prowess to put on a surge in the final 50 yards but placed second with a 48.50 as she continues to show off her sprinting abilities. Tiffany Oliver of Florida State and Georgia’s Chantal Van Landeghem also broke 49 seconds, with Oliver third in 48.81 and Van Landeghem fourth with a 48.89.
Nic Fink and Anton McKee have been at or near the top of the collegiate rankings in the men’s breast all season, and they got the chance to race together for the first time this season. Fink won the battle with a 1:55.09 to McKee’s 1:56.07. Those times are good enough to move Fink into the top three nationally and bump McKee up a couple of spots. Michael Duderstadt, continuing his strong meet after winning the 100 breast yesterday, led for 150 yards before falling back to third at the finish with a 1:56.20, a lifetime best by 1.7 seconds.
Hali Flickinger got her first win of the meet with a 1:55.54 to win the women’s 200 fly and put herself in the top five of the collegiate standings. She just missed her personal best, which is a 1:55.39 from the NCAA championships. Auburn’s Alex Merritt, however, did set a personal best in placing second, dropping her best by eight tenths to a 1:57.34. Merritt overtook Alabama’s Leah Bird at the 150, and Bird placed fourth with a 1:57.66.
Flickinger also posted a 1:55.82 in the 2000 back preliminaries before scratching to focus on the 200 fly.
Georgia, the reigning NCAA champion in the women’s 400 free relay, held off Auburn to win the final women’s event with a 3:14.41 to Auburn’s 3:15.32. In the men’s relay, Auburn was untouchable, posting a 2:52.35 to win the event. Only two swimmers posted sub-43 second splits in the race: James Disney-May (42.84) and Matias Koski (42.94).
While Georgia easily won the women’s meet by 588 points over Auburn, it was the Tigers who beat the Bulldogs on the men’s side — by just 3.5 points.