Tennessee Nearly Sweeps All Swimming Events On Night One of Nike Cup

KNOXVILLE, TN - December 5, 2013 - Faith Johnson competes in the 4x100 Yard Medley Relay during the USA Swimming AT&T Winter National Championships at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tennessee

Photo Courtesy: Tia Patron/Tennessee Athletics

CHAPEL HILL – The University of Tennessee won all but one swimming event tonight to open the Nike Cup Invitational at the University of North Carolina, with the Lady Volunteers starting things off by almost clearing the automatic NCAA championship qualifying times in the relays.

Women’s results

The team of Amy Lubawy (23.16), Faith Johnson (21.85), Harper Bruens (22.16) and Alex Cleveland (22.70) combined to post a 1:29.87 in the 200 free relay, the nights first event. The automatic qualifying time for the NCAA championships is 1:29.49. Tennessee won the 200 free relay at the 2013 NCAA championships, and look on track to challenge for the top of the podium again. It’s just a shade faster than the 1:30.02 they put up last week in the tri-meet against Louisville and Auburn to rank as the top team in the country. NC State placed second in the race with a 1:30.53, good for second in the nation, while Duke placed third with a 1:31.02. That puts the Blue Devils fifth in the collegiate rankings.

Tennessee would win the remaining events on the women’s side. Madeline Tegner continued the momentum for Tennessee with a strong 4:43.38 to lead a 1-2-4 finish for the Volunteers in the 500 freestyle. Mary Griffith was a fingernail short of the win with a 4:43.43 for second, while Morgan Dickson placed fourth for Tennessee with a 4:47.88. Finishing third was NC State’s Rachel Muller with a 4:47.19.

Amanda Carver put the field away easily to win the 200 IM with a 1:58.74. No other swimmer was under two minutes, as Duke’s Leah Goldman posted a 2:00.30 for second and Lauren Driscoll of Tennessee was third with a 2:00.50.

Johnson nearly posted the first sub-22 second 50 free of the season, winning with a 22.02. Her lifetime best is a 21.84 from last March’s NCAA championships, and Johnson looks on pace to eclipse that time this season. Three members of the NC State Wolfpack placed second through fourth, as Riki Bonnema (22.37), Lauren Poli (22.72) and Ashlyn Koletic (22.76) gave their squad big points in the sprint.

The Tennessee women rounded out the night with a dominating win in the 400 medley relay, posting a 3:34.79. Once again, the Volunteers nearly beat the NCAA qualifying time, but fell short of the 3:34.25 needed to guarantee them a spot in the Big Meet. Molly Hannis’ 58.52 breaststroke split went a long way in helping Tennessee tonight, though backstroker Madison Hahn (53.55), butterflyer Anna DeMonte (54.58) and Johnson on freestyle (48.14) were just as impressive. Placing second was NC State with a 3:39.84 while Duke placed third with a 3:41.42.

Men’s results

Simonas Bilis ruined Tennessee’s chances of a complete sweep of the men’s events at the Nike Cup tonight, taking the 50 freestyle victory with a 19.86. It’s not his fastest time of the season, falling short of the 19.76 he posted last week in the dual meet against Virginia. The NC State junior needed that time to beat Tennessee’s Troy Tillman and his 19.94 that nearly beat his lifetime best of 19.72 from last February but makes him one of the few under 20 seconds this season. Placing third in the 50 free was Andreas Schiellerup of NC State with a 20.18.

Tillman might be viewed as tonight’s hero among the Tennessee squad, as his 19.36 split in the 200 freestyle relay was not only the fastest of the night, but might have been what helped the Volunteers beat NC State in the relay by one hundredth of a second, 1:19.29 to 1:19.30. Sean Lehane’s anchor leg of 19.59 was the second-fastest of the night, another key in helping Tennessee gain the surprise win over a team that puts much pride in its relay strength.

Tennessee got on top in the 400 medley relay as well, but got a scare from NC State in the final 200 yards. Tennessee led by more than two seconds after breaststroke, thanks to a 47.49 backstroke from Lehane and a 52.55 breaststroke from Peter Stevens. But NC State was on the charge in butterfly, as Christian McCurdy put up a sizzling 47.51 to cut the lead down to 1.6 seconds. Bilis was on a mission to catch Tennessee’s Tillman, but Bilis’ sizzling 42.94 wasn’t enough as Tennessee took the win, 3:12.10 to 3:12.88. Well back in third was Air Force with a 3:14.29.

The remaining two events in the men’s meet went to Tennessee. Evan Pinion got within 2.5 seconds of the NCAA “A” cut of 4:14.59 in the 500 free, posting a 4:16.93 to win over teammate Sam McHugh, who was second with a 4:18.68. Pinion’s time is a lifetime best by nearly two seconds, eclipsing his former best swum in 2012. Placing third tonight was Anton Ipsen of NC State with a 4:18.70.

Tristan Slater put together four solid legs to win the 200 IM with a 1:45.97, now the fastest swim in the country. Slater’s best this season had been a 1:48.45 from just last week, and is 1.4 seconds off his lifetime best from last March’s NCAA championships. Bradley Cline of Duke was second with a 1:47.09, while NC State’s Christian McCurdy held off a fast-charging Rokas Cepulis of East Carolina to place third, 1:47.33 to 1:47.86.

Full results available on Meet Mobile