Nov. 20, 2010
By Wes Todd
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - South Carolina freshman Amanda Rutqvist broke a nine-year-old school record in the 200 breaststroke to lead the Gamecocks on Saturday night at the Nike Cup Invitational at North Carolina. The Gamecocks finished third in both the men's and women's standings in a strong showing for both teams.
It was a strong week all around for South Carolina as the Gamecocks totaled 11 NCAA provisional qualifying times, broke three school records, set two Nike Cup meet records and posted numerous personal-best times in one of Carolina's strongest championship meets in recent memory.
Rutqvist, a native of Gothenburg, Sweden, swam a time of 2:10.35 to set a meet record, earn an NCAA `B' cut, and break the existing school record by nearly three seconds as she won the 200 breaststroke in a career-best time. The previous mark was held by Tricia Rye, who set the record in 2001 with a 2:13.19. Rutqvist already had a `B' cut in the event at 2:15.78, but came within less than a second of an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 2:09.72. Fellow freshman Rachael Schaffer also lowered her NCAA provisional qualifying time in the event, posting a 2:15.49 to win the consolation final and win her race by more than three seconds.
Sophomore Michael Flach wrapped up one of the best weeks of his career with a runner-up showing in the 200 butterfly, lowering a personal-best with a 1:45.36 to eclipse his previous career-best set at last year's NCAA Championships. He still holds the third-best time in school history in the event, improving his time by more than a full second.
In addition, sophomore Brooks Ross turned in the best time of his career and the fourth-best in school history in the 1650 freestyle, completing 66 lengths of the pool in 15:29.98 to finish fourth in the timed finals. Fellow sophomore Matt Columbus took eighth place in the event, posting a 15:39.54 to set his own personal-best and record the ninth-best time in school history.
Another Gamecock relay team earned an NCAA provisional qualifying time as the 400 freestyle relay team of Flach, James Crawford, Andrew Seiler and Gerard Rodriguez took runner-up honors in 3:00.69 to give Carolina its second NCAA relay cut of the weekend. Flach's leadoff leg of 45.00 was the fastest 100 freestyle time of the season for the Gamecocks.
Bobby Cave, another sophomore, barely missed an NCAA `B' cut in the men's 200 breaststroke, clocking a 2:00.85 to finish fifth in the championship final. And classmate Collin Kaden posted a 2:04.85, slightly higher than his prelim time of 2:04.57, to finish eighth. Junior Ryan Connolly turned in a 2:07.06 to finish 13th.
Junior Chris Kelly finished runner-up in the 200 backstroke with a 1:47.24, and classmate James Crawford was right behind him in third place with a 1:48.80. In the 100 freestyle, freshman Gerard Rodriguez touched the wall in 45.50 to post the team's second-best time so far this season and finish seventh in the championship final. Rory Grigull went 46.53 and Brett Sexton swam a 46.90 to post a good showing in the C-finals.
For the Carolina women, Bridget Halligan earned a fourth-place finish in the 100 freestyle, posting a 50.85 to barely miss an NCAA `B' cut and improve on her personal-best time, which ranks 10th in school history. Senior Megan Sparks was eighth in the 200 back with a 2:01.76, with Haley Staubach (2:01.44) in 11th and Lauren Raczkowski (2:05.88) in 23rd place. Jordan Gibbs took 10th place in the 1650 free with a 17:19.92, and Whitney Avers took 12th in the 200 butterfly in 2:04.33.
The women's 400 freestyle relay team of Halligan, Schaffer, Kelly Tannhauser and Raczkowski wrapped up the weekend with a fourth-place finish, touching the wall in 3:26.55.
North Carolina took the team championships in both the men's and women's meets, with the Navy men and Duke's women finishing second. The Gamecocks were third in both meets.
South Carolina now turns its attention to winter training and final exams before the season resumes in the new year. The Gamecock divers will open the second half of the schedule Jan. 3-5 at the Tennessee Diving Invitational, and the full squad returns to action Jan. 7 with a home tri-meet against Kentucky and College of Charleston.
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