SEC Swimming Championships Begin Wednesday at Florida
Feb. 15, 2011
By Wes Todd
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - South Carolina will compete in its 20th SEC Swimming Championships as the Gamecocks travel to Gainesville, Fla., this week for a four-day meet. The swim meet runs Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 16-19, at the sold-out Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium at the University of Florida.
The Gamecock women enter the swimming portion of the meet in third place with 62 points after an outstanding performance at last week's diving championships, highlighted by Taryn Zack's SEC Championship in 1-meter diving and two scoring performances by Courtney Forcucci. On the men's side, South Carolina is still looking to get on the board, but has multiple opportunities to score this week.
Five individuals and two relay squads enter the meet with NCAA provisional qualifying times already in hand. The No. 23-ranked Gamecock men are led by a group of sophomores that includes Michael Flach (B-cuts in 200 free, 500 free and 200 fly), Brooks Ross (500 free, 1650 free) and Bobby Cave (just shy of B-cuts in 100 and 200 breast). Freshman Gerard Rodriguez adds depth in the freestyle events - also with B-cuts in the 200 and 500 freestyle - and junior Chris Kelly will look to score points in the 200 backstroke and 400 IM. The Gamecocks also have a strong presence in the 800 freestyle relay, which is ranked third in the SEC heading into the league meet.
On the women's side, freshmen Amanda Rutqvist and Rachael Schaffer are two of the most dynamic swimmers South Carolina has seen in a decade as the two have combined for five `B' cut times and three school records in the breaststroke and IM events. Rutqvist has the SEC's top time and is top-10 in the nation in the 200 breast, while Schaffer is one of the nation's best in the 400 IM. Senior Bridget Halligan is also a returning scorer from last season and looks to return to the finals in the 50 freestyle. Senior Megan Sparks and sophomore Lindsey Olson have scored in previous SEC Championship meets and could be a threat in the backstroke and butterfly events, respectively.
Last year, the Gamecock men finished in 8th place while the women took 9th overall. Michael Flach was the top scorer for the Carolina men, highlighted by a bronze medal in the 500 freestyle to earn him Freshman All-SEC honors. He also scored in the 200 butterfly. Other individual men's scorers included Rylan Ridenour (1M, 3M diving), Ryan Kuser (1M, 3M diving), Bobby Cave (100, 200 breast), Chris Kelly (200 back), James Crawford (200 back) and Matt Columbus (1650 free). On the women's side, Taryn Zack led the way with fourth-place finishes on both the 1- and 3-meter boards. Allison Barr scored on the 1-meter and the platform as well. Bridget Halligan (50 free) and Claire Thompson (200 free) were the only other individual scorers for Carolina.
South Carolina has sent both a men's and women's team to the SEC Championships each year since joining the league for the 1991-92 season. The Gamecock men earned their best finish in that initial season of 1992 as they took home a fifth-place showing from the league meet. On the women's side, fifth-place finishes in 2004 and 2005 are the program's high marks. Prior to joining the SEC, South Carolina's men had won eight consecutive Metro Conference championships while the Gamecock women took seven of eight titles in the league with Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Cincinnati, among others.
The meet gets underway at 6 p.m. Wednesday with timed finals in the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay. Live results and live video will be available through GatorZone.com, and fans can receive periodic updates on the Gamecocks in the meet by following @GamecockSwim on Twitter.
2011 SEC SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS - SCHEDULE OF EVENTS