Feb. 1, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina swimming and diving teams will wrap up their regular season schedule on Saturday in a SEC road meet against Alabama and Georgia in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. CT at the Alabama Aquatic Center. South Carolina head coach McGee Moody is looking for his squads to build some momentum heading into the SEC Championships, which will be held Feb. 19-23 in College Station, Texas.
"We have to be quicker this week. We are going down to Tuscaloosa. That's a tough place to go race," Moody said. "It's going to be a great meet with us and Alabama. We also have Georgia coming in with two of the top teams in the country. We have another opportunity to step up and beat a couple of top 25 teams."
The 23rd-ranked Gamecock men enter the weekend with a 6-4 record and a 1-1 mark in the SEC, while the Carolina women are 5-6 overall and 0-3 in the conference. The Gamecocks are coming off a sweep of College of Charleston, Queens and Wingate on Senior Weekend. South Carolina won 24 events during the two-session meet and was able to get some younger swimmers valuable experience as well.
Perhaps the most impressive performance by the Gamecocks came on the boards, as the diving corps swept the top three spots in every event. Reigning SEC Diver of the Week Rylan Ridenour led the way with a record-setting performance on the three-meter springboard. A native of Lebanon, Ind., Ridenour broke his own school record with a score of 446.95 to win on Senior Day. He also won the one-meter competition with a career-best 395.90, which was 5.75 points shy of the school record.
"Two weeks ago (head diving) coach (Todd) Sherritt was not very happy with the way they had performed," Moody said. "He has a talent of making sure his divers are strong when they need to be strong. I know he made the adjustments that they needed to make. They were outstanding. It was good to see Rylan break that record on Senior Weekend and get to see him go out in style."
South Carolina will need another solid effort from both the swimmers and the divers on Saturday with the Crimson Tide competing for a win in their final home meet of the season and the Bulldogs looking to rebound from being swept at Tennessee last week. The Gamecocks are 16-28 all-time against Georgia on the men's side and 9-19 against the Crimson Tide. On the women's side, South Carolina is 4-25 when facing the Bulldogs and 10-11 against Alabama.
The Georgia women's team has been one of the elite programs in collegiate swimming for many years under head coach Jack Bauerle, who coached the United States Olympic Team in the 2008 Olympics. The Lady Bulldogs have won four national titles and eight SEC Championships during his tenure. Georgia enters Saturday's meet ranked No. 6 in the country with an 8-1 overall record and a 4-1 league record. The Lady Bulldogs are coming off a loss at Tennessee, which was their first loss in a SEC dual meet since losing to Florida on Oct. 26, 2006.
Senior Allison Schmitt is back to lead the way for Georgia after redshirting last season to train for the Olympics. Schmitt made the U.S. Olympic Team and won five medals at the London Olympics, including three gold medals. Schmitt currently ranks fifth in the country in the 100 freestyle (48.42), first in the 200 freestyle (1:42.25) and seventh in the 500 freestyle (4:38.28). The Lady Bulldogs also have Olympic gold medalist and eight-time NCAA champion Shannon Vreeland (freestyle/IM) and five-time NCAA champion Megan Romano (freestyle/backstroke). Junior Laura Ryan will also play a key role on Saturday on the boards as she ranks near the top of the SEC on both the one-meter and three-meter springboards.
The Bulldog men are ranked No. 12 in the nation as they head into the meet with a 5-3 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the SEC. Georgia is coming off a loss at Tennessee and a loss to Texas in the meet before that. Senior Martin Grodzki and freshman Matias Koski have led the Bulldogs this season and are two of the most talented distance swimmers in the country. Koski has posted the second fastest time in the country in both the 500 freestyle (4:15.55) and 1000 freestyle (8:59.81) and the third fastest mark in the 1650 freestyle (14:53.32). Grodzki has the sixth best time in the country in the 500 freestyle (4:16.72), fifth best in the 1000 freestyle (9:03.26) and sixth best in the 1650 freestyle. The Bulldogs also return Nic Fink, who swept the breaststroke events at last year's SEC Championships.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Dennis Pursley, a Hall of Fame inductee, the Crimson Tide men enter the weekend at 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. Alabama's lone win came in the season opener against Delta State. The Crimson Tide will be looking to rebound from a loss to Missouri on Jan. 12. Junior All-American BJ Hornikel will be a swimmer to watch on Saturday. Hornikel finished second in the 100 and 200 freestyles at the SEC Championships last year and helped lead Alabama to a top-25 finish at the NCAA Championships.
On the women's side, Alabama enters the meet with a 2-3 overall record and a 1-3 mark in the conference. The Crimson Tide defeated Delta State and Vanderbilt in October for their two wins. Alabama is coming off a 168-132 loss against Missouri. Junior All-American Kristel Vourna, who competed at the 2012 London Olympics, has led Alabama this season. Vourna, the school record holder in the 100 butterfly, has posted some of the fastest times in the conference this season in both the 100 and 200 butterfly.
For Gamecock fans making the trip to Tuscaloosa, admission is free to the meet. Live video will be available here.
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