Feb. 16, 2016
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A school record swim and three strong diving performances highlighted the University of South Carolina's opening night on day one of the 2016 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships, hosted by the University of Missouri. After the first of five days of competition, both Carolina teams sit in eighth place.
The Carolina men are tied for eighth with Kentucky, at 114 points. Auburn leads the men's competition through four events, with 170 points.
On the women's side, the Gamecocks share eighth with Arkansas, at 112 points. Tennessee and Kentucky share the lead, at 154, with Georgia's 149 right on their heels.
Carolina's school record came in their next-to-last event of the night, the women's 800-yard freestyle relay. Heather Merritt, Emma Barksdale, Meredith Vay and Taylor Worrell set the mark with a cumulative swim of 7:10.28.
HEAD SWIMMING COACH McGee Moody - "We were okay. We've got to be better, I think. We were good in some areas. The women's 800 free relay was a school record, which we were proud of, and I think we've got some areas we need to improve on." -- On his team's overall effort on the first day
"I thought our diving was outstanding tonight. The ladies did a great job, placing fourth and sixth, and Jordan did a great job. He went into finals seeded eighth and came out of finals seeded fourth. So I am proud of those guys. They kept us in the battle tonight." -- On the great finishes by the divers
"We've got to be sharp tomorrow. This is the SEC Championships. If you're off even the slightest little bit, it shows up in a big way. We'll be ready to go tomorrow." -- On the improvements that need to be made tomorrow
"We have to view prelims (on Wednesday) like it's a championship final. If you're not at your best in the morning here, you're not going to come back at night. You don't get to put points on the board. So we've got to be sharp in the morning. We've got to wake up and get going and be ready to race, and I think we will." -- On the keys to Wednesday's competition
HEAD DIVING COACH Todd Sherritt - "It's a great day and a great way to start off. We had some phenomenal performances today. Lauren Lamendola did a great job today. The field was much stronger than last year, but she did great to put together two lists. Julia Vincent -- same thing. She was very, very solid. I'm pretty happy; a lot of the objectives we were working on, we accomplished. Jordan Gotro -- what a great finish he had. He snuck into finals and then worked his way into fourth. It's a lot of fun to see someone like him do that, because he's worked really hard this year." -- On his three finalists from Tuesday
Carolina started the SEC Championships with a ninth place result in the 200-yard medley relay. Jonathan Boland, Nils Wich-Glasen, Kevin Leithold and Patrick McCrillis swam the race in 1:26.79, the third-best mark in program history.
Jordan Gotro rallied twice on Tuesday for a fourth place finish in the 3-meter dive. Gotro's final score was 389.20, and he rose from eighth to fourth on the strength of his final two dives, with his last effort, a Reverse 1 1/2 Somersault 3 1/2 Twist Free, chalking up a 78.75. Gotro also staged a comeback in prelims, advancing from 16th after four rounds to the last finals position after two strong closing dives.
The last race of the night was the 800-yard freestyle relay, where Carolina placed sixth. Kevin Leithold, Akaram Mahmoud, Tomas Peribonio and Wich-Glasen combined for a time of 6:24.43, fourth-fastest in program history.
Two Gamecocks advanced to the finals of the first women's event, the 1-meter dive. Lauren Lamendola led the way for Carolina with a fourth place result, scoring a total of 317.45. Her best dive of finals was her Forward 2 1/2 Somersault Pike, which received a 59.80. Julia Vincent finished sixth in the event with a cumulative score of 308.95, paced by a Reverse 1 1/2 Somersault 1 1/2 Twist Free that received a 58.50.
Carolina finished 12th in the meet's first swimming event, the 200-yard medley relay. Ashleigh Ferguson, Kersten Dirrane, Mairyn Branaman and Taylor Vincent finished in 1:41.46, the third-fastest time in school history.
The Gamecocks came through with a school record in the final swim of the night, the 800-yard freestyle relay. Merritt, Barksdale, Vay and Worrell's time of 7:10.28 beat the previous Gamecock record by less than a second.
SEC COMMUNITY SERVICE TEAM HONOREES
Tuesday wasn't just about competition for the Gamecocks, as seniors Bobby Bittner and Brooke Morton were selected to the SEC Swimming & Diving Community Service Teams. Bittner has tallied over 80 hours of community service hours during his time with the Gamecocks, including volunteer stints at the USC Herbarium, Catawba Trail Elementary School and the USC Dance Marathon. Morton also gives her time in a number to a number of service endeavors, including the Palmetto Children's Hospital and Adopt-A-Family.
UP NEXT FOR CAROLINA
The 2016 SEC Championships continue Wednesday, with prelims beginning at 10 a.m. CT and finals starting at 6 p.m. CT. Events include the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free, men's 1-meter dive and the 200 free relay.
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