Tennessee Women’s Swimming & Diving Takes Down Kentucky

Alexis Yager. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The Tennessee Women’s swimming and diving team knocked off unbeaten No. 10 Kentucky Thursday at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center, defeating the Wildcats 178.5 – 121.5.

Despite winning five of the first eight events, Kentucky trailed Tennessee after the first diving break thanks in part to the Lady Vols’ depth.


Tennessee Women’s Swimming & Diving Release

“Kentucky is a great team, this was a very competitive effort from both squads,” associate head coach Ashley Jahn said. “I am really happy with how our team performed overall. The second half of our meet was better than the first half, but that’s what our team does. We take what we are learning and continue to adjust.”

UT showcased its depth in the 1,000 yard freestyle as Kristen Stege, Amanda Nunan and Claire Nguyen led the Lady Vols to a 1-2-3 finish in the event. Stege got her hand on the wall first in 9:46.99, setting a new personal best.

Nunan touched second with a time of 9:47.13, while Nguyen hit third at 9:57.64.

“That distance group is doing a phenomenal job,” Jahn said. “They are coming off a great couple weeks of work and they have a really clear vision of what they want this portion of the season to look like. Not only for their events, but for the team as a whole. Today, they got to show off those skills and really get the team energized. It’s a big deal to finish 1-2-3 in an event and they did that really well.”

Kentucky won the first two events out of the diving break, but Tennessee shut the door and closed out the meet winning the final six events. Along the way, Stege picked up her second win of the day in the 500 free. The sophomore stopped the clocked in 4:48.27 to set a new meet record.

Freshman Mona McSharry turned in a pair of winning performances, taking the top spot in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. The Dublin, Ireland native won the 100 breast in a time of 59.91, which broke the previous meet record held by Olympian Molly Hannis.

McSharry won the 200 breast in 2:12.27.

Senior Ana Celaya Hernandez had two strong performances on the diving boards Thursday, winning on 1-meter and placing second on 3-meter. Hernandez won the 1-meter springboard event with a score of 291.90. Her score of 287.48 on 3-meter earned her a second place finish behind UK’s Kyndal Knight, the reigning SEC champion on the 3-meter board.

Grace Cable finished third for UT on both 1-meter and 3-meter with scores of 267.15 and 281.63, respectively.

“Today’s 1-meter win for Ana was a very good win,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “Kentucky’s Kyndal Knight is an excellent diver and a SEC champion. That’s a really, really good win and Ana is extremely deserving of that and we’re very proud of her.”

Kentucky Release

“Tennessee was the better team today, so credit to them,” said head coach Lars Jorgensen. “We just didn’t have enough people step up today, and in races we won, we didn’t have enough depth. I hope we will take this as a learning experience in preparation for the conference championships.”

Kentucky came into the dual meet owning an unblemished 5-0 record, having defeated Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt already this season, which began in mid-October. The team will meet one more program, No. 14 Louisville, next week at home, before embarking on a two-month postseason stretch in February and March.

The Wildcats earned seven triumphs in the dual meet, while their border foe claimed nine triumphs. The teams split the two relay events and the two diving events, claiming one triumph apiece in those contests.

Riley Gaines had a strong meet, earning the top time in both the 100 and 200 freestyle events and against a program known for its dominant presence in those events. The junior paced a field of orange caps, touching the wall in the 100 freestyle in 49.74 and in the 200 freestyle in 1:46.81. Gaines also helped the 200 med-r team to the top time in the first event of the meet, swimming the fastest anchor split in 22.35 for a group time of 1:39.41.

Kyndal Knight had a near career performance on the 3-meter springboard. She finished in first place on 354.53 points, more than 65 points better than second place and less than two points from her career best, which she set at Alabama in mid-December (355.58). The junior has now won first place six out of nine times, and first or second place eight out of nine times, this season.

“Kyndal had some high quality dives today on 3m,” said head diving coach Ted Hautau. “She is getting more comfortable with her list of dives where we have added some degree of difficulty. Even when she has some slight misses she is starting to put up some high scores and that is a very good sign. Morgan Southall returned from foot surgery in October and was allowed to do some limited dives at the beginning of this week. She did an excellent job competing a lower degree of difficulty list of dives on 1m today. She was consistent and I think she is gaining strength and proprioception so we are hopeful she can make a run at getting her full competition list back.

“Our takeoffs as a team were inconsistent today and it cost us a lot of scoring opportunities. We were not good in training this week on the 1m board and it showed up in the competition. I hope that is a wake up call for our younger and less experienced athletes. They have to have a higher standard for themselves in training so they can step in and capture those third and fourth place finishes when the opportunity presents.”

Anna Havens Rice, a freshman, stepped up in the 200 butterfly, posting her best time in the event since becoming a Kentucky Wildcat. The freshman touched the wall in 2:00.66, less than a tenth of second from her career best, to finish in third place. Teammate and junior Izzy Gati paced the field, finishing in the top spot on a time stamp of 2:00.45, after she helped the 200 med-r team a dominant performance.

Caitlin Brooks kept her streak alive in the 100 backstroke, earning the top time in 53.27. Brooks, a sophomore, has won every 100 backstroke final she has competed in this season, including against Tennessee twice this season. Sophie Sorenson, a junior, came up big in the 200 backstroke, earning the top time in 1:56.91.

Tomorrow, the Kentucky men’s swimming and diving team will square off with No. 11 Tennessee at 3 p.m. ET inside the Allan Jones Aquatic Center. The two teams met in late October, as the Kentucky men dropped to a suited-up Tennessee team, 194.5-105.5.

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