Gamecocks Rewrite Record Books at 2009 SEC Championships
Feb. 21, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. - South Carolina broke a total of 13 school records, turned in 24 swims below their respective NCAA provisional qualifying mark, and took home one SEC diving championship in what can only be termed a successful week at the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at Auburn University. The Gamecock women took home a seventh-place finish in the team standings - their best showing since 2006 - and the men finished eighth in the strongest conference in the nation.
"The times we put up this week...it made a big move for our program," head coach McGee Moody said. "Our team and our program took a huge step forward this week. We showed that we can compete for championships, and I think a performance like we had this week will help our recruiting efforts and help us to continue to get better as a program."
The final night was highlighted by Nicholas Walkotten breaking his second school record of the week, lowering his own mark in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:43.55 to earn a sixth-place finish in the championship final. Walkotten's previous best time of 1:43.83 was good enough for second a year ago in the event, but Georgia's Mark Dylla broke the SEC record at 1:41.61, falling just short of the NCAA record of 1:41.33. In addition, Shaune Fraser of Florida and Logan Madson of Auburn went below the NCAA automatic qualifying standard of 1:42.95 to notch three of the fastest times in the country this year.
Senior Kyle Cormier wrapped up his final SEC Championship in spectacular fashion, breaking Zsolt Gaspar's school record in the 100-yard freestyle on the leadoff leg of the 400 freestyle relay. His split time of 43.21 helped the Gamecock team of Cormier, David Livsey, Todd Weyandt and Walkotten grab a seventh-place finish with a school-record time of 2:55.67, also garnering an NCAA provisional cut in the process. Earlier in the night, Cormier finished 10th in the 100 freestyle with a time of 43.69. Cormier finished the week with three individual school records and a share of four relay records.
"Kyle's leadoff leg was amazing," Moody said. "I was pumped about that. He's showing our young athletes what our team can do if they will trust in the program. The way he performed this week, he's showing that we can be successful at South Carolina, and that transfers to our team mentality."
Also for the Carolina men, freshman Armin Hornikel made the most of his first SEC Championship appearance with a 14th-place finish in the 200 breaststroke. His finals time of 2:01.42 was slightly behind his prelims time of 2:00.92, which was the fourth-fastest time in school history.
On the women's side, Amanda Dunnigan made her final individual swim at an SEC Championship in the 200 breaststroke, turning in a 10th-place time of 2:13.37. She fell just short of earning her third individual school record of the week as she swam the second-fastest time in school history, just behind Tricia Rye's 2001 time of 2:13.19. Dunnigan earned at least a share of five school records during the week, including three as part of relay squads.
Freshman Lindsey Olson turned in only the second sub-2:00 time in school history in the 200 butterfly, touching the wall in 1:59.74 to grab a 10th-place finish for South Carolina. Also for the Gamecock women, Megan Sparks touched 14th in the 200 backstroke finals with a time of 1:57.86, just a hair slower than her preliminary time.
The final event of the night saw the relay team of Sharntelle McLean, Kassy Kugler, Megan Sparks and Claire Thompson turn in a sixth-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay, earning an NCAA `B' cut time of 3:20.41 but falling just short of the school record. Kugler, likely swimming for the final time as a collegian, turned in one of the fastest splits of her career with a 50.07 second leg.
Auburn ran away with the men's team title, winning the Southeastern Conference championship for the 13th consecutive year and the 15th time in the last 16 years. The Tigers finished with 880.5 points, earning the third-largest margin of victory in SEC history over runner-up Florida (626). Tennessee was third with 584 points.
In the women's competition, the third-closest championship in league history came down to the final two races. Florida's three finalists in the 200 butterfly and a strong 400 FR propelled the Lady Gators to their first SEC title since 2002, edging Auburn 744-730.5. Georgia, a consensus No. 1 in the polls for most of the season, finished a close third with 725. Tennessee was fourth with 394.5, and Arkansas made its best showing since joining the league with a fifth-place finish.
Several Gamecock swimmers could compete in various "last chance" meets next weekend with the aim to lower their qualifying times in hopes of earning a trip to the NCAA Championship. For the Gamecock divers, their next competition will be March 12-14 in Knoxvile, Tenn., at the NCAA Zone B Diving event. The NCAA Women's Championship runs March 19-21, and the NCAA Men's Championship is March 26-28. Both events will be held in College Station, Texas, on the campus of Texas A&M University.
For the latest on South Carolina swimming and diving, log on to GamecocksOnline.com.
FINAL STANDINGS - MEN 1. Auburn - 880.5 2. Florida - 626 3. Tennessee - 584 4. Georgia - 435.5 5. Alabama - 314 6. LSU - 303 7. Kentucky - 277 8. South Carolina - 174