"This was one of the more enjoyable days in my swimming or coaching experiences at the SEC Championships," Auburn head coach David Marsh said. "Teams don't typically exceed my expectations, but they did that tonight."
Coach David Marsh
For the second night in a row, the final relay provided the biggest fireworks as the men¹s 200 free relay of George Bovell, Ryan Wochomurka, Derek Gibb and Fred Bousquet clocked a SEC, NCAA and U.S. Open record. Bovell kick-started the relay with an SEC 50 freestyle record split of 19.33. Wochomurka then posted an even-better 19.18, leading into Gibb's 18.68. Bousquet brought the crowd and the Auburn bench to their collective feet with an anchor leg of 18.90.
"We've been having big dreams for this relay," Gibb said. "We just fed off the energy of the crowd. We go after each other every single day. This is what it¹s all about."
Fred Bousquet prepares to swim his relay leg for AU's NCAA record setting team.
The race prior to the men¹s record-setting performance was just as exciting and also established a conference record. Becky Short led off with a split of 22.57 and was followed by Christina Swindle¹s 22.41 and Jenni Anderson's 22.56. Trailing by .78 seconds heading into the final leg, Eileen Coparropa chased down Georgia's Page Kearns with an improbable 21.55 to Kearns' 22.61, erasing the deficit and giving the Tigers the victory by .28 seconds with a final time of 1:29.09.
"It was a great relay," Coparropa said. "Georgia has such great swimmers. It's a victory, but at the same time, just knowing that we¹re competing against the best of the best is awesome."
Bryce Hunt also got into the SEC record-breaking with his 1:41.48 in the 200 backstroke, breaking his own record set last year. The time also tied a career-best for Hunt. Chad Barlow also received a medal for his third-place finish with a time of 1:42.87, just ahead of teammate Doug Van Wie in fourth (1:43.23.).
"(The win) felt really good," Hunt said. "I knew all year this was the race I wanted to win. To beat Chris (Kellam of Florida 1:42.11) and my other teammates, it was really a satisfying victory."
Kirsty Coventry, who won the 400 IM on the opening night, made it a clean-sweep of the 200 backstroke events for the Tigers when she stroked the walls for a time of 1:53.15. It marked the first time Coventry has won the event at the conference meet following two runner-up finishes. Erin Volcan (fourth 1:55.70) and Jeri Moss (sixth 1:59.89) joined her in the championship finals while Tawnie Bethune finished 13th (2:02.95).
The night started off for the AU men with a victory in the 200 medley relay (1:25.40). Wochomurka jump started the relay with a backstroke time of 22.33 and was followed by Mark Gangloff's breaststroke leg of 23.60. Bousquet, who won the 100 fly on Thursday night, then clocked a 20.46 in a 50 of the stroke, leaving Gibb to pick up the victory with a 19.01 freestyle split.
The men's 200 medley relay team defended its title of a year ago with the same participants except for the breaststroke leg where Gangloff was placed for the graduated Pat Calhoun. Gangloff, who won the 100 breaststroke on Thursday, made it a clean sweep of the breaststroke events for the AU men as the senior clocked a personal-best 1:56.10, making it the first time since Dave Denniston in 1999 that the Tigers swept both distances. Eric Shanteau joined Gangloff on the awards podium with a third-place finish of 1:57.85. Sean Osborne placed seventh (1:59.45).
Bovell earned his first individual SEC title of the meet with a victory in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:34.54. Again the Tigers had more than one man on the stand as B.J. Jones, who won the 500 freestyle on Thursday, placed third with a career-best time of 1:35.54. Joey Schneider was seventh (1:37.29).
"I'm actually very pleased," Bovell said. "I have wanted to make this one of my best events."
Margaret Hoelzer, who set the school record in the 200 freestyle as the leadoff of the 800 free relay on Wednesday, claimed her second SEC title of the year, winning the 200 free in a time of 1:45.26. Heather Kemp, who was the 2003 SEC Champion in the event, was third (1:46.44).
Becky Short won the consolation finals of the 200 free with a time of 1:48.02, a personal best, with Leslie Lunsmann finishing 11th (1:48.91) and Moss 14th (1:49.48).
Caesar Garcia successfully defended his platform title of a year ago, but he had to hold off his own teammates to do it. Garcia scored a 593.15 in the finals after posting a 618.05 in the prelims to just out-score 2002 SEC platform champion and teammate Matt Bricker (591.80). Steven Segerlin did not allow his teammates to ascend the podium alone as he placed third with a time of 542.70. Andrew Sivulka placed 10th (406.25).
"It's a great feeling to win, as winning always is, but what was better was my teammates were right there behind me," Garcia said.
Jeremy Knowles snagged the first conference title of his career with a personal-best time of 1:43.50 in the 200 fly, out-touching Kentucky¹s Daniel Cruz by three-hundredths of a second. Kurt Cady also swam in the championship finals, placing sixth with a time of 1:47.41. Daniel Slocki placed 16th (1:50.95).
"Last year I finished second and to come in this year and finish first was great," Knowles said. "I felt really good. I changed strategy from this afternoon when I didn¹t do as well as I had hoped. I decided to just swim strong and see what happened and it worked."
Demerae Christianson's school-record 1:55.53 in the 200 fly earned her her highest SEC finish in the 200 fly, placing her second while Bethune was fourth with a time of 1:58.96.
The Auburn women also collected a runner-up finish in the 200 medley relay where Hoelzer (25.10), Laura Swander (27.87), Lunsmann (24.01) and Coparropa (21.46) stopped the clock at 1:39.08, just behind Georgia's 1:38.99.
Lauren Duerk was Auburn's highest finisher in the 200 breaststroke, placing fourth (2:13.55) while teammate Anne Amardeilh was sixth (2:14.84) and Swander 12th (2:17.15).
The AU men will try to wrap up their 10th SEC title in the last 11 years on Saturday while the Tiger women will be going for their second in a row. The prelims session begins at 9:30 a.m. CST and will include the 200 IM, the 100 freestyle, the 1650 freestyle and the women¹s platform.
Men's SEC Swimming and Diving Championships
1. Auburn 790
2. Florida 559
3. Georgia 385
4. Tennessee 321
5. Kentucky 265
6. Alabama 219
7. LSU 204
8. South Carolina 193
Women's SEC Swimming and Diving Championships
1. Auburn 634
2. Georgia 556
3. Florida 530
4. South Carolina 234
5. Tennessee 219
6. Arkansas 180
7. Kentucky 176
8. Alabama 175
9. LSU 172