KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Auburn senior Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace won her second straight title in the 50-yard freestyle, and the Tigers won both the men's and women's 200 freestyle relay Thursday to highlight the second night of competition at the 2012 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships.
Thanks mostly to a strong contingent in the 50 freestyle, the Auburn men moved into first place with 301 points. Florida is in second place with 276, and Tennessee is third with 208. On the women's side, Auburn is in third place with 228.5 points; Georgia and Tennessee hold the top two spots.
"Amazing night," Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. "The guys came back and fought tonight and swam their own races, which is the most important thing. It's a great competition, but at the end of the day, you have to swim your own race. It started with Katie Gardocki (in the 500 free) and went all the way through to the end. We focused on ourselves tonight, and it paid dividends."
Vanderpool-Wallace won her 11th and 12th SEC titles with victories in the 50 free and 200 freestyle relay. Her time of 21.35 in the 50 free was a mere .01 seconds off her own SEC record and .08 shy of the NCAA record. Her only faster time came in the same race last year, when she went 21.34 to capture her first title in the 50 free at the 2011 SEC meet in Gainesville. With her prelim time of 21.46, her finals time of 21.35 and her leadoff leg of 21.71 in the 200 free relay, Vanderpool-Wallace has the three fastest times in the country this year in the 50 free.
Despite a dominating victory by more than half a second, the Nassau, Bahamas, native was not entirely pleased with her performance.
"This is an awesome pool," Vanderpool-Wallace said. "It's a really fast pool; I love it. I felt good going into the race, but in the 50 freestyle, you just have to shut your mind off and get into it. I'm kind of struggling with my details in this race. In prelims I took an extra stroke into the wall and I did it again (tonight)."
Hannah Riordan took seventh place in the championship final with a 22.46; her time of 22.42 in prelims was a season-best. Emily Bos took second in the consolation final for 10th overall with a 22.73, and Olivia Scott was 14th overall with a 22.99.
Auburn closed out the night on a high note, winning both the men's and women's 200 freestyle relays. The Auburn men's team of Drew Modrov, Karl Krug, Chris Manning and TJ Leon posted an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:16.38 to win the 200 free relay for the 10th straight year, out-touching Florida by a full second and a half.
"The 200 free relay is kind of Auburn's thing; we're known for our sprinting," Modrov said. "So we know we've just got to go out there and put down a good performance, help this team out and give them the boost we need going into tomorrow. We just went out there, did our race and we won. We tried to get out ahead and just keep it that way. The pool's pretty good so far – some fast swimming and we're ready for some more."
For the women, it was Vanderpool-Wallace, Hannah Riordan, Emily Bos and Haley Krakoski bringing home the title in an NCAA 'A' cut time of 1:28.32, holding off a late push from Georgia in the next lane.
"It was great having Arianna leading us out in good, open water," Bos said. "We all wanted to win and got the job done. It feels great to be a SEC champion."
The men's 50 freestyle contingent brought in big points for the Tigers. While Auburn was unable to win the event for the first time since 2002, the Tigers took the second through fifth spots and seventh place to leapfrog Florida in the standings. Modrov had the top Auburn time, an NCAA 'A' cut time of 19.32. Krug (19.38), Manning (19.47) and Chierighini (19.57) took third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, and James Disney-May finished seventh with a 19.62. Leon captured 10th overall with a 19.88 to finish second in the consolation final.
Auburn also earned a runner-up finish from junior Kyle Owens in the 200 IM. His time of 1:43.30 was the second-fastest time in Auburn history and the third-fastest time in the country this year. Stuart Ferguson took 11th place with a 1:47.75, and Allen Browning was 14th with a 1:48.01.
In the men's 500 freestyle, Zane Grothe clocked a 4:18.57 to win the consolation final; his time would have finished second in the championship. Chris Kramer also earned points for the Tigers with a 1:44.95.
"Zane just woke up a little flat this morning," Hawke said. "It's not uncommon for a young guy to have a great swim the night before the championship and come out flat in the morning. But he came back and proved who he was tonight, and that's the main thing."
Gardocki also won the consolation final in the women's 500 free, posting a career-best time of 4:40.23.
In the diving well, John Santeiu earned a fourth-place finish in the men's 1-meter event with a score of 356.06; Adam Godzinski was seventh with a 325.70. With a ninth-place finish in prelims, Fraser McKean also provided points for the Tigers with a 314.85.
Vennie Dantin also finished fourth, scoring a 362.45 in the women's 3-meter competition. Anna Aguero finished eighth with a 322.10. South Carolina's Courtney Forcucci broke Dantin's SEC Championship record with a score of 392.40 to win her first SEC title.
"I was really proud of Adam stepping up and getting into the finals on one-meter," Auburn diving coach Jeff Shaffer said. "We ended up 7-8-9; Fraser was just a bit off the mark. John could have been a bit sharper in prelims, but he did what he needed to do to get into finals. And in finals, he stepped up.
"On the women's side, it was a tough contest. Courtney really led the way, shattering the SEC record on 3-meter. Vennie had a couple of mental miscues that were uncharacteristic, but we'll right the ship. I was proud of Anna; she did a great first list to get into the finals. She ran out of gas a little bit, but three weeks ago, we didn't even think she'd be in the meet."