4th-Ranked Tigers Open NCAA Meet on Thursday

Austin, Tex.--Auburn heads into the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships ranked fourth nationally for the three-day competition on the campus of the University of Texas.

Coach Brett Hawke's Tigers are not one of the favorites this year. Georgia, which goes into the meet ranked number one, looks to be the team to beat with No. 2 Cal and No. 3 Stanford expected to be the top challengers.

Auburn has won five NCAA women's swimming and diving titles since picking up the first one in 2002, but it would be a big surprise if the Tigers pick up number six this year.

The Tigers qualified 11 swimmers and one diver for the three-day competition that runs Thursday through Saturday.

Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace is shown at the 2011 SEC Championships.

The Tigers are led by Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, who set an NCAA record in the 100 freestyle at the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla., and at the same meet set the SEC record in the 50 freestyle.

"She has just been focused all year and made a huge impact on the women," Hawke says. "I think she has given them a lot of confidence.

"You could tell this morning by the look on her face," Hawke says. "She didn't say a lot, but you could see she wants to win here. That is good for some of the younger women on the team to know there is someone on the team who is that driven and focused."

Commenting on his competitors he brought to Austin, Hawke says, "We have some senior leadership with Caitlin Geary and Micah Martindale. We have a strong junior class with Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, who is the SEC Swimmer Of the Year and NCAA record holder. She is going to be in excellent position to win both the 50 and 100 freestyle events for us.

"Then we have Micah Lawrence who is very strong in the breaststroke," Hawke says. "We have some great freshmen in Emily Bos and Olivia Scott. We are fairly balanced and we also have Vennie Dantin who will be diving for us."

Also competing for the Tigers will be Kate Gardocki, Rebecca Jones, Lauren Norberg, Lindsey Norberg and Hannah Riordan.

"Right now it is the SEC champion Georgia team who look to be the favorite," Hawke says. "They are pretty stacked across the board and are a great team. Then you have your California teams--Cal and Stanford. They are very strong teams. The Texas women's team is very strong this year as well. It's going to be a very tight team battle. It could easily come down to the final day or the final event, even."

The Auburn men's team, which is ranked third nationally, will begin its NCAA competition a week later in Minneapolis.

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