Feb. 14, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina swimming and diving teams are set to begin competition at the SEC Championships on Wednesday at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee.
The meet runs through Saturday, with preliminaries taking place at 10 a.m. each day and finals each night at 6 p.m. South Carolina head coach McGee Moody has been pleased with the way his teams have prepared for this year's meet.
"The great thing about (the SEC Championships) is you prepare all year, and you've got about four days here to be great," Moody said. "That can be an awesome experience or it can be a trying time. Where we are as far as being prepared mentally and physically, I think our team is ready. We've had some setbacks over the last couple of weeks with some people getting sick and some injuries. We've got our share of adversity, but I'm not concerned about it with this group. I think they are prepared to handle just about anything that comes their way."
South Carolina enters the SEC Championships with three swimmers with NCAA `B' cut times and five divers with NCAA Zone qualifying scores. On the men's side, the Gamecocks are led by juniors Bobby Cave (100 and 200 breaststroke) and Brooks Ross (1650 and 500 freestyle) and sophomores Jay Warner (100 backstroke), Gerard Rodriguez (200 and 500 freestyle) and Matt Navata (200 butterfly and 400 IM). On the boards, freshman Cole Miller will look to score points on both the one and three-meter springboards after a stellar dual meet campaign that included one first-place finish and seven second-place showings.
The Carolina women are led by sophomores Amanda Rutqvist (100 and 200 breaststroke) and Rachael Schaffer (200 breaststroke, 200 IM and 400 IM), who have combined to produce five `B' cut times this season. Rutqvist is set to defend her SEC title in the 200 breaststroke after setting the conference record last season with a time of 2:08.56 to become the Gamecocks' first women's SEC swimming champion. She enters the week with the fourth-best time (2:11.92) in the event this season.
"That was a whole lot of fun watching (Rutqvist) last year," Moody said. "She was somebody that we knew would be good early on, but I'm not sure that any of us were quite prepared for how fast she went at the end of the year. She started with her preparations at a different place this year than when she came in as a freshman. She is a racer, and I would never question her ability when it comes to stepping up behind the blocks and racing. She is a tough young lady."
Schaffer is seventh (2:00.74) in the conference this season in the 200 IM and fifth (4:11.25) in the 400 IM. Sophomore Abby Galbreath will also look to score points as she enters the championships with a `B' cut time in the 400 IM. Senior Lindsey Olson (500 freestyle) and juniors Matea Peteh (100 and 200 backstroke) and Jordan Gibbs (1,650 freestyle) also look to have strong performances in the pool this week. On the boards, senior diver Courtney Forcucci has an opportunity to score big points for the Gamecocks after winning all but two events in dual meets this season. Forcucci ranks second on both the one and three-meter springboards in the SEC this season.
South Carolina has competed at the SEC Championships every season since joining the conference in 1991-92. The Carolina men recorded their best finish in their first appearance at the Championships with a fifth-place showing. The Gamecocks have produced five individual SEC champions, led by two-time champion Zsolt Gaspar (2000, 2001). The Carolina women finished fifth in back-to-back seasons in 2004 and 2005. Eight Carolina women have won individual titles. At last year's meet, South Carolina broke nine school records and posted 37 NCAA provisional qualifying times. The Gamecock men recorded a seventh-place finish, while the Carolina women claimed sixth.
The meet gets underway Wednesday with the 200 medley relay, 800 freestyle relay, women's one-meter diving and men's three-meter diving. Live results and live video will be available at utsports.com.
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