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Swimming & Diving: Gamecocks Ready for Bittersweet End to Clemson Rivalry

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Written by student assistant Rebecca Duensing

This weekend will be the final showdown between South Carolina and Clemson, not on the football field, but in the pool. A series that dates back to 1923 will come to an end as Clemson has decided to phase out their Swimming and Diving programs at the end of this season. We caught up with some members of our South Carolina squad to find out what the rivalry meant to them.

"For me, it's been one of the biggest meets, every single year," said senior swimmer Mallory Cage. "We've had swimmers get their best times in the middle of the season, which is unheard of almost and it's always the most exciting meet."

Cage said they plan months in advance to face their rival and while it is sad to see the rivalry come to an end, she hopes it will go out with a bang - a big Gamecocks win.

S&D crowd vs. Clemson 2010.jpeg
A packed house at the last full meet between the two programs held at Carolina in 2010. For this year's meet, the Diving portion will be in Columbia and the swimming in Greenville.

For senior swimmer Ryan Connolly, Clemson is the biggest meet of the year besides SEC's because there's so much anticipation leading up to it. Not many meets are as intense as the rivalry meet, and that intensity is not always just between the swimmers. Connolly's favorite part of the rivalry is the huge crowd that comes and gets involved cheering. While it'll be sad to lose that rivalry, he said, "it'll be fun to beat them one last time."

Senior swimmer Lindsey Olson and junior diver Rylan Ridenour also agreed that it's a highly anticipated meet because they get so excited and revved up. Ridenour said it gives him the motivation to train a little bit harder in preparation.

Olson reflected on the a favorite memory in the series from her freshman year, saying, "Our swim meet was incredible. It was home and the seniors were just revved up and we blew them away."

Cage still remembers recording her best time of the season in the 200m breaststroke that year, along with a few other Carolina swimmers in the same event to give the Gamecocks an edge.

"It was just so exciting because it was the turning point in the meet and we were like 'we've got this,'" said Cage. "I remember looking across the pool and [the Clemson team] were all sitting down."

Looking to this year's meet, Olson has bittersweet feelings saying that, "it's kind of sad, being a senior and it's their last year of being a program. It's pretty exciting though because it'll be good to end on a win." Ridenour predicted that "the scores are going to be high, and it's going to be a good time."

The diving portion of the meet will be held on Friday, October 28th at 6:30 p.m. in the Carolina Natatorium at Blatt P.E. Center. The swimming portion will be Saturday, October 28th at 12:00 p.m. at the Westside Aquatic Center in Greenville, S.C.

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