Jan. 14, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After going almost two months without a team competition, the South Carolina swimming and diving teams didn't show any signs of rust on Saturday in their return from winter break. The Gamecocks put together one of their best performances of the season as they swept Duke and Queens University of Charlotte at the Blatt P.E. Center/Carolina Natatorium.
The Carolina women defeated Duke, 170-127, and Queens, 254-39, to improve to 5-2 on the year. On the men's side, the Gamecocks topped the Blue Devils, 170-130, and Queens, 222-66, to move to 4-3 overall.
On the day the Gamecocks recorded 20 first-place finishes in 32 events. Senior diver Courtney Forcucci, junior diver Rylan Ridenour and sophomore swimmers Gerard Rodriguez, Matt Navata and Rachael Schaffer collected two wins apiece to lead the Gamecocks. South Carolina head coach McGee Moody was impressed with his team's strong start to 2012.
"There is always a lot of uncertainty coming off Christmas break, where you have six or seven weeks of very hard training with no real racing," Moody said. "We were anxious to see how they would respond, and I thought they did a really good job.
"We had a lot of people that stepped up. We had a lot of people that were hurt or sick, and I talked to the team early on in the meet about stepping up and filling in for the folks that couldn't go. I think we did a great job with that today. It was a good day for the program."
The diving corps came up big for the Gamecocks yet again on Saturday, sweeping the boards for third time in the last four dual meets.
Forcucci opened the day with a win on the women's one-meter springboard with a score of 295.34. She also cruised to first place in the three-meter event by 50 points with a score of 332.50. Ridenour led the Gamecock men, winning the one-meter springboard by 78 points with a score of 364.35 and taking first on the three-meter board with a score of 366.07.
"We've been training and conditioning really hard," South Carolina diving coach Todd Sherritt said. "I was really happy with the performance of our whole team. There wasn't anybody out there that didn't get some of the objectives they were going for. Duke is a very tough diving team - one of the best in the country - so we did really good today."
The Gamecocks finished second in both the men and women's 200 medley relays before beginning another dominant day in the distance events. Junior Jordan Gibbs placed first in the women's 1,000 freestyle with a career-best time of 10:10.18. Teammates Abby Galbreath, Charlotte Ward and Brooke Obeck finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Carolina junior Brooks Ross claimed first in the men's race in 9:27.29, followed by teammate Matt Columbus (9:30.89).
In one of the closest races of the day, Duke's Meghan Dwyer (5:00.15) held off Gibbs (5:00.79) to win the women's 500 freestyle. The Gamecocks claimed the top three spots in the men's race, as Rodriguez (4:35.39), Ross (4:37.42) and Columbus (4:37.82) finished first, second and third, respectively.
Carolina swept the 200 freestyle, as Schaffer (1:51.57) grabbed first in the women's event and Rodriguez (1:40.07) won the men's race. Senior James Crawford finished second in the men's race with a time of 1:41.50.
Junior Matea Peteh claimed first in the women's 100 backstroke with time of 57.00, while the Carolina men dominated the men's race, as sophomore Jay Warner (50.14), freshman Michael Covert (50.25, PR) and junior Max Heinze (50.49) grabbed the top three finishes.
Navata picked up his first win of the day with a career-best 1:51.10 in the men's 200 butterfly, and sophomore Lauren Raczkowski set a personal best of 51.91 to win the 100 freestyle.
Covert swam a personal best of 1:49.50 to win the men's 200 backstroke, followed by Crawford (1:50.61) and Navata (1:52.67).
Sophomore Amanda Rutqvist continued her streak of success in the 200 breaststroke with a first-place finish on Saturday in a time of 2:16.41, marking the fourth-straight dual meet she has finished first in the event.
Carolina had an impressive showing in the 200 IM as well. Schaffer took first in the women's race in a time of 2:03.60, followed by teammate Annika Jonsson (2:06.50). Navata won the men's event in 1:52.89, while teammates Bobby Cave (1:53.92) and Ryan Connolly (1:55.69) claimed second and third, respectively.
The Gamecocks return to action on Friday, January 20 in a SEC dual meet at Georgia. Competition is slated to begin at 4 p.m. in Athens, Ga.
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