Feb. 20, 2016
COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of South Carolina sophomore Akaram Mahmoud captured the SEC Championship in the men’s 1,650-yard freestyle on Saturday night as the 2016 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships came to a close. Led by Mahmoud’s individual title, the Gamecock men finished seventh, while the women placed 11th at the Mizzou Aquatic Center.
Mahmoud swam a school-record time of 14:35.49 to win the 1650 free title by more than 13 seconds. The Cairo, Egypt, native is South Carolina’s first SEC champion on the men’s side since 2001, when Zsolt Gaspar (50-yard freestyle) and Tamas Szucs (200-yard freestyle) won conference crowns. His time is also the fastest in the nation this season.
The conference title wasn’t Carolina’s only podium of the evening as the Gamecocks finished the SEC Championships with their strongest night yet. Mahmoud was joined on the 1650 free podium by Tomas Peribonio, and both Nils Wich-Glasen (men’s 200-yard breaststroke) and Allyson Nied (women’s platform dive) also earned medals on the last night of competition.
Florida captured the men’s title with a total of 1,275 points, edging Auburn’s total of 1,223. The Gamecocks finished with 574, topping Texas A&M, Kentucky and LSU in a spirited battle for the seventh spot.
Texas A&M was the women’s champion, totaling 1,166.5 points. Tennessee came in second with 1,139.5. The Gamecocks ended the meet with 424.5 points.
In addition to Mahmoud's Gamecock record, Nied and Ashleigh Ferguson also set program bests on Saturday. Nied's platform finals total of 283.20 is South Carolina's best ever performance, as is Ferguson's 1:56.83 from the 200-yard backstroke prelims.
HEAD SWIMMING COACH McGee Moody - “(Akaram) had a good night tonight. When we started looking at the year, where he finished last year and how he trained over the summer, we thought this might be a place he could get to. We’ve got some bigger goals going forward to NCAAs now, but I think he’s right on track to be where he wants to be going into NCAAs. I wish he’d been able to grab that SEC record tonight; that would have been a nice little bonus, but getting him on top of the podium and having Tom Peribonio up there with him – that was a big night for our men, and for our distance program as well.” – On Akaram Mahmoud’s SEC Championship
“Mark Bernardino has done an unbelievable job with these guys as far as preparing them and setting them up to perform at an elite level.” – On the success of his distance swimmers at the meet and the reason behind their performances
“Allyson Nied – she’s an outstanding tower diver, and it’s pretty impressive when you can get on a podium at SEC Championships when you don’t actually have a 10-meter tower at South Carolina. Todd Sherritt has done a great job with the divers. They had an outstanding meet. All in all, I think it’s been a great week for us.” – On the success of the divers this week
“We’re looking forward to moving on now. We’ve got folks that are going to the NCAA Championships, and obviously we have a big spring and summer ahead of us with the Olympics in Rio. We travel tomorrow. We’ve got to get back to Columbia, S.C., and we’ll have practice on Monday. We’ve got to get back at it. Those guys have got to get their volume back up and prepare to get a full taper for NCAAs and see if we can’t finish the season on a high note and accomplish the goals that we set forth back in August as a program.” – On the future aspirations of his team after a strong SEC meet
HEAD DIVING COACH Todd Sherritt - “It's been a wonderful week, and this has been the best night of all, just having to be on the platform. We don't hit it nearly as much as everyone else in our conference, because we don't have it. These kids have just outdone themselves. Marissa Roth getting in the finals was a tremendous effort. She really made a name for herself at this meet. Then Allyson, getting third, breaking the school record - she's going to be encouraged going on to the NCAAs now, so I'm just thrilled.” – On putting two divers in the platform finals, with Allyson Nied finishing on the podium
“This team really stepped up. It's been a good team. We knew it was coming in here. They do things right. They were mentally prepared, and it showed up here. And it's just going to get better. If they get back, and work hard, and make some adjustments, we're going to see some things at NCAAs as well.” – On the strong efforts by his team all week
SOPHOMORE SEC CHAMPION Akaram Mahmoud - “At the beginning, I was kind of nervous. I didn’t know if I had to go early or not, because I had to race against great people. So I made my move at 700 or 750 yards and swam my race. I kept my tempo, and it was worth it. It was kind of hard at the end; I felt so tired. But I went 14:35, my best time, and the fastest time in the country. I am so proud and so glad to represent the Gamecock nation, and I’m so proud to swim with my teammates.” – On his SEC title in the 1,650-yard freestyle
Peribonio swam an early heat of the 1,650-yard freestyle and posted a time of 14:50.90. That held up through the evening session, and he joined Mahmoud on the podium to give Carolina two of the top-three finishers. Cody Bekemeyer also turned in a quality swim, finishing 10th with a performance of 15:02.53. All three Gamecocks set personal bests, with Mahmoud’s 14:35.49 making the NCAA A Cut.
Bryce Kananowicz was the top Carolina performer in the 200-yard backstroke. The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, native swam a time of 1:45.84 in the prelims and finished 25th. He was the first alternate for the evening session.
Kevin Leithold qualified for the C Final in the 100-yard freestyle and finished fourth in his evening heat. His time of 43.97 was good for 20th overall in the event.
Wich-Glasen earned a podium finish in the 200-yard breaststroke last season, and he duplicated the feat on Saturday night. The sophomore swam 1:53.94 to finish third place overall, just .44 seconds behind the championship swim in an extremely tight race.
South Carolina came in 10th place in the last race of the meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Jonathan Boland, Leithold, Peribonio and Patrick McCrillis finished the race in 2:57.68, the eighth-best time in Gamecock history.
The last evening session of the Championships started with the 1,650-yard freestyle. Sarah Smith led Carolina and finished 27th overall with a time of 16:54.25. One place behind her was Elizabeth Maltby, in a time of 16:56.68.
Ferguson’s record swim of 1:56.83 came in just the second heat of the morning, starting the day off right for the Gamecocks. The senior finished 22nd in finals, posting a time of 1:57.64 in her second race of the day.
Meredith Vay was the top Gamecock in the 100-yard freestyle. The sophomore’s time of 50.52 was a season best and good for 37th position in the morning session.
Two Gamecocks qualified for finals in the 200-yard breaststroke. Kersten Dirrane placed 13th overall, swimming a personal-record 2:12.75, and Brittany Oxley turned in a time of 2:15.09 to finish 24th.
Nied set a program record in platform prelims with a score of 268.35, and she was joined by Marissa Roth in the last finals session of the meet. The freshman broke the Gamecock record again in the evening, with a score of 283.80, and she finished third overall to make her first career SEC Championships podium. Roth finished seventh overall in her second finals performance of the meet, with a score of 239.40.
Carolina finished 11th in the final race of the SEC Championships, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Vay, McKenna Keith, Heather Merritt and Taylor Worrell turned in a time of 3:21.33, the fourth-best time in Gamecock history.
UP NEXT FOR CAROLINA
South Carolina’s divers will head to the NCAA Zone Diving Championships, to be held March 7-9. After that, the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships run March 17-19, and the Men’s Championships will take place March 24-26. All three events will be held in Atlanta, Ga.
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