NCAA Division I Race of the Night: Tennessee Takes Down Giants

Editorial coverage by SpeedoUSA

Commentary by Jeff Commings

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, March 21. YOU could view tonight's relay finals at the women's NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships as David — or Danielle? — versus Goliath, with the Tennessee Volunteers winding up their slingshots and taking aim at the more prominent schools in the meet. Their rocks hit their targets right between the eyes in the 200 free relay and 400 medley relay, with the Volunteers winning the first-ever relay titles for their women's squad in the history of the program.

With most eyes on the race between Arizona and Georgia in the 200 free relay, Tennessee was lurking in the shadows on the first two legs by Caroline Simmons and Faith Johnson, never losing sight of the leaders. Then Lindsay Gendron dove in and put Tennessee in second place, giving anchor Kelsey Floyd the momentum she needed to get past Arizona's Alana Pazevic and put the Volunteers on top of the podium with a 1:27.14.

This is the kind of come-from-behind victory that nonpartisan swimming fans love to see. It epitomizes the thrill of the championship finals at any major meet, when emotions are high and everyone swims out of their minds. That's what Tennessee did on the first night of competition at the IU Natatorium.

Closing out the night with a win in the 400 medley relay cemented the talk that good things have been brewing in Knoxville since Matt Kredich took over the combined squads last summer. Kredich has been coaching the women at Tennessee for eight years, but putting men and women in the same pool often makes both teams better. If you're a female swimmer racing against a male teammate every day in workout, you're going to get mentally better. I would imagine Floyd, Gendron and the rest of the crew stepping up to the blocks thinking, “If I am able to beat a few guys on my team during practice, why can't I beat these girls next to me?”

Tonight's victories will make Tennessee dangerous the next two days. Slingshots are holstered and ready for battle in the morning.