The championships underwent a half-day delay on Thursday morning due to a combination of ice and snow that accumulated overnight, forcing the cancellation of the prelims session this morning. The cancellation changed the finals session into a timed finals event instead of consolation-championship finals, but the change did not seem to impact the Tigers too much.
"I think the change in format impacted everybody, some positively, some negatively," AU Coach David Marsh said. "I think where we will see the positives of not having to get up early and race this morning is tomorrow and the next day. We have a lot of people who are what I consider "gamers" who like the hype, and there wasn't as much of that tonight."
Auburn grabbed its first title of the night when junior BJ Jones grabbed the first SEC title of his career. Jones stroked the walls for a career-best time of 4:17.35 in the 500 freestyle, making him the first Tiger champion in the event since Kevin Clements won in 2001 and 2002.
"BJ Jones keeps getting better in terms of the way he approaches the sport," Marsh said. "It is so fun to see a local LaGrange (Ga.) boy do such special things for the program and have a special future."
Also placing in the top 16 were freshmen Joey Schneider (sixth * 4:22.76) and Daniel Slocki (seventh * 4:22.77), both of which dropped over eight-and-a-half seconds off of their previous career bests, and junior Nate Knopf (11th * 4:26.32).
Fred Bousquet defended his SEC title in the 100 fly as he clocked a 47.06, out-touching teammate Bryce Hunt, who placed second with a time of 47.21. Hunt's finish was the highest SEC finish of his career. Ryan Wochomurka placed sixth (47.93). Chad Barlow placed ninth with a time of 48.43.
"I had a very busy morning," Bousquet said. "I was woken up at six this morning and they told me there would be no prelims. I couldn't fall back asleep because I was so happy. One less round of swimming is pretty good for me."
Senior Mark Gangloff garnered his first conference title when he stopped the clock in a time of 53.21. It marked the fourth-straight conference championship that a Tiger brought home the title in the event as Pat Calhoun won it three straight years.
"I had to defend the title. That was my number one goal," Gangloff said. "We take great pride in our breaststroke group at Auburn. I'm glad to keep it going."
"Mark is a leader of the team and he decided he was going to step up tonight and he did that," Marsh said.
Freshman Sean Osborne placed seventh with a career-best 55.39 while sophomore Kurt Cady was eighth with a time of 55.58.
The most exciting race of the night was reserved for the women's 400 free relay. The quartet of Eileen Coparropa (48.74), Margaret Hoelzer (48.25), Christina Swindle (49.17) and Becky Short (48.54) combined to clock an SEC-record 3:14.70, beating out Georgia by three-thousandths of a second. The title was the second straight in the event for AU and the third in four years.
"We really had a tough pick for the fourth position on the relay between Margaret Hoelzer and Kirsty Coventry," Marsh said. "(Co-Head Women's Coach) Kim (Brackin) made the right choice because Margaret ended up being the fastest leg on the relay. Eileen really set up the relay though, with her 48.7."
Not to be out-done, the men's 400 free relay squad of George Bovell (42.94), Ryan Wochomurka (42.46), Derek Gibb (42.86) and Fred Bousquet (42.98) clocked an SEC record of their own, touching in a time of 2:51.24, giving them the title for the second straight season and breaking the record they established last season.
"The 400-free relay is kind of a statement of who is the boss in sprinting," Gibb said. "With the new SEC record, we're ahead of the game this year. It gives us confidence going into the 200's tomorrow."
The women's 500 freestyle saw freshman Adrienne Binder clock a career-best 4:44.15, placing her third in the event. Heather Kemp placed eighth (4:46.29) while Hayley Peirsol was 10th (4:49.83).
AU picked up a second and third place finish in the women's 100 fly as Hoelzer clocked a 52.52 and Demerae Christianson a 52.64. Leslie Lunsmann was 12th (55.04) and Tawnie Bethune 15th (55.31).
"This was about the same time I went for last year at this meet, and that's a good sign of where I'm at in terms of not being tired for the rest of the season," Hoelzer said.
Swimming the women's 100 breaststroke, Laura Swander picked up points with a fifth-place finish (1:02.52), just ahead of teammate Anne Amardeilh in sixth (1:03.12).
Ashley Rubenstein scored her highest finish in her career on the 3-meter, scoring a 497.00 to place third. Her placing represented an eight-place jump for her from her previous best in 2002.
Caesar Garcia also had his best finish on the 1-meter, placing fourth with a score of 339.75. Matt Bricker was sixth (320.30), Steven Segerlin seventh (303.15) and Andrew Sivulka 14th (268.55).
"We had a lot of very nice swims tonight and some not so good, but tomorrow is really the key day to this meet," Marsh said.
The competition will return to its normal schedule on Friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. CT. The events set to be contested are: the 200 medley relay, the 200 butterfly, the 200 freestyle, the 200 breaststroke, the 200 backstroke, the men's platform and the 200 free relay.