Tigers Stay Strong At SEC Championships

Knoxville, Tenn.--The Auburn men's team kept its lead during day three of the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships while the women's squad kept the pressure on Georgia.

Both Auburn teams ended the night with big finishes by swimming to victories in the 400 individual medley relay.

The men's team, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation, took the event in a pool record time of 3:09.03. Doug Van Wie, James Wike, Alexi Puninski and Cesar Cielo swam for the Tigers.

The women's team of Rachel Gol, Julie Stupp, Tawnie Bethune and Emily Kukors swam a time of 3:36.33 to edge Georgia (3:36.51). Auburn is ranked No. 2 nationally behind Georgia.

Auburn's swimmers celebrate a victory in the women's 400 medley relay on Friday night.

"It is an awesome feeling," said Stupp, who opened and closed the Friday night competition with wins. "I just went out there and swam with my teammates next to me. I just wanted to do it for Auburn."

The men's 400 IM victory extended Auburn's margin to 748 to 659 over second place Florida. Georgia is third at 561 followed by host Tennessee with 545, Alabama at 313 and LSU at 313.

Auburn entered day three with a 70 point lead and added 19 points to the margin.

Georgia's lead is 729-693 over Auburn in the women's competition. Florida is third with 466 points and is followed by Kentucky with 412, Tennessee with 379, South Carolina at 301, Alabama at 220, LSU at 201 and Arkansas at 101. Auburn cut two points off UGA's lead on day three.

Julie Stupp swims the backstroke leg during her 400 IM victory.

Stupp got the evening off to a huge start for the AU women by winning the 400 individual medley in a pool record time of 4:09.30. Her teammates made it a one-two-three Auburn finish as Adrienne Binder took second in 4:14.01 and Lauren Duerk was third in 4:14.44. Making it an even bigger point producer was a sixth place finish by AU's Anne Amardeilh.

Stupp also scored in the 100 breaststroke, finishing third.

The 100 backstroke was big for the women's team as freshman Gol and senior Jeri Moss finished one-two for the Tigers. Gol swam a time of 53.25 and Moss clocked a 54.01.

The 100 backstroke was a winner for the men, too. Senior Van Wie, the 2005 champion in the event, took first place in a time of 47.15 and teammate Scott Goodrich finished fifth place in 48.18.

"I tried not to put too much pressure on myself to try and defend my title," Van Wie said. "I just wanted to have a great race and let that dictate my finish. Tennessee's swimmers have been swimming really well so I knew it would be close and that pushed me to do my best."

Auburn coach David Marsh said, "I am very happy that Doug (Van Wie) had a chance to go out an SEC champion in both the medley relay and 100 back. Tomorrow (Satuday) morning is the big day, and we will have to swim very well if we want to catch Georgia's women and stay in the lead on the men's side."

In the men's platform diving, Auburn's Steve Segerlin took his third second place of the meet. He finished No. 2 in the one-meter and three-meter springboard events. He scored 390.20 to finish behind Chris Colwell of Georgia, who totaled 432.75.

Puniski took second place in the men's 100 butterfly and Jakob Andkjaer was fourth for the Tigers. Wike took second place in the 100 breaststroke.

"I am really happy to be part of the Auburn team," said Puniski, a freshman. "I just went out there to do my job and try and prove myself to my team. This is my first SEC competition and I think I am doing pretty good. I am looking forward to NCAA's now. It is just great to be an Auburn Tiger."

For the women's team, Kukors took second place in the 200 freestyle.

Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said the pressure is on the Lady Bulldogs to have a good finish to prevent Auburn from upsetting his team for a second straight year at the SEC meet.

"It was an exciting night for us," Bauerle said. "Kara Lynn (Joyce) had the swim of the night and Mary (DeScenza) was exceptional as always. We're going to have to be lights out, actually perfect, on Saturday to win. It's way too close. But we weren't supposed to be in this position either. You've got to give all the credit to the kids."

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