Tigers In Knoxville to Defend SEC Titles

Knoxville, Tenn.--Coach David Marsh is expecting major challenges as the nation's number one ranked Auburn's men's swimming team goes for its 10th straight SEC title while the number two ranked Auburn women's team goes for its fourth straight league championship.

Competition starts on Wednesday at the Student Aquatics Center on the campus of the University of Tennessee and runs through Saturday.

Since Marsh took over as head coach at his alma mater where he was an All-American, the Auburn men have won SEC titles in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The women's team has won the league title in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

"We have a lot of freshmen this year, a lot of newcomers," Marsh says. "In our team meeting I explained to them that what you have to understand in the SEC is this is a full on, no holds barred championship meet.

"A lot of conferences they kind of dilly-dally around a little bit at the conference championships," the coach notes. "A couple of teams will really go for it. Others will hold their best stuff for later on.

"Now that we are at the meet with full preparations for this championship, what I challenged our team to do is not to look beyond this and look just at this and focus on giving us their best for this week. If they do, we will have a real good meet.

Eric Shanteau is one of Auburn's seniors whose teams have never lost a college meet.

"Florida on the men's side will give us a great meet," Marsh predicts. "On the women's side, Georgia really is the favorite and we are chasing them as is Florida so there should be some great competition."

Florida is ranked fourth nationally in the men's Top 25 behind Auburn, Cal and Stanford. Georgia is ranked 10th, Tennessee 12th, Kentucky is 17th and Alabama is 20th.

Georgia is No. 1 in the women's Top 25 followed by Auburn, Cal, Stanford and Florida. The Tennessee women are 16th and Kentucky is 25th.

The Auburn men's team goes into the competition riding a victory streak that goes back to Jan. 11, 2001 when the Tigers lost a dual meet to Texas.

The women's team hasn't lost since last season's NCAA Championships when they finished as the runnerup to Georgia, a team the Tigers upset at the 2005 SEC meet. "Last year we had no business beating Georgia," Marsh says.

Looking at this year's women's team, Auburn returns just one defending SEC champion. Adrienne Binder is back to defend the 1650 freestyle titles she has won the past two years. However, the Tigers don't feature the star power of recent teams that featured swimmers such as Olympians Kirsty Coventry and Margaret Hoelzer.

"We don't have the big names on the women's side this year," says Marsh, but Auburn does return 13 athletes who scored 562 of Auburn's 816 points at last year's SEC meet. The Tigers also have a strong freshman class with athletes such as backstroker Margo McCawley, breaststroker Alicia Jensen and freestyler Chelsea Haser swimming well. "We have to have a whole team effort," Marsh says.

The men's team has more "star power" with Olympic bronze medalist George Bovell, who has already won six titles in three seasons, leading the way.

Senior Doug van Wie is the defending champion in the 100 backstroke, junior Steve Segerlin is the defending champion in platform diving and Eric Shanteau is an eight-time All-American who has been a big scorer at the SEC meet the past three seasons.

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