10 Straight SEC Titles For AU Swimmers

Knoxville, Tenn.--The Auburn men's team pulled away from Florida on the final night of competition to take a 10th straight SEC Swimming and Diving title while the women's team just missed upsetting No. 1 ranked Georgia.

Both Auburn teams had strong performances on Saturday at the Student Aquatics Center to wrap up four days of competition on the University of Tennessee campus.

The No. 1 ranked men's team finished with a total of 1,101 points, easily outdistancing runnerup Florida's total of 939.5. Georgia (761), Tennessee (715) and Alabama (468) finished the in top five.

"Every SEC Championship is different because the personality of the each team is different," AU coach David Marsh said. "The competition in the SEC is always fabulous. Swimming in the SEC is only going to get better and for now we are very proud to be number one."

Georgia's women came into the meet ranked No. 1 for the second straight year. Last season Auburn upset the Lady Bulldogs to win a third straight SEC title and nearly did the same thing this year.

Auburn pulled ahead by six points with two events to go on Saturday night, but the Lady Bulldogs smashed the pool record by better than seven seconds to win the 400 freestyle relay, the last event of the competition, to hold off the Tigers by a score of 1,094 to 1,075. Florida was third with 758 while Kentucky was fourth with 597 and host Tennessee scored 535.

Georgia regained the lead in the next to last event, platform diving, outscoring the Tigers 38-19 as Lynn Seagraves finished fifth, one spot behind Sara Hershman of Georgia and one position ahead of Georgia diver Emily Hunter.

UGA's 400 freestyle relay team then took care of business by smashing the pool record by more than seven seconds in a time of 3:15.67. The Auburn relay of Rachel Gol, Jana Kolukanova, Margo McCawley and Emily Kukors was second in 3:18.31.

A happy UGA coach, Jack Bauerle, said, "This is the best SECs we've ever had and it's the sweetest one we've ever had. We've got such an exceptionally tough group of kids. They really gutted it out. I could not be more elated, and I am especially happy for our seniors."

A one-two-three sweep in the 100 freestyle in the second event on Saturday night put the Tigers in total control in the men's competition.

AU's Cesar Cielo celebrates his victory in the 100 freestyle. He also won the 50 freestyle.

Cesar Cielo led the charge in a time of 43.00, narrowly edging Jacob Andkjaer (43.02) while Bryan Lundquist was third in 43.81.

Cielo, Bryan Lundquist, Kurt Cady and Jakob Andkjaer added a punctuation mark to their big victory by closing the meet with an impressive victory in the 400 freestyle relay in 2:52.41, the fastest time in the nation this year. The Tigers won four of the five relays over the four days of competition. Cielo gave the Tigers the lead with an opening leg of 42.81 and AU never trailed.

Doug Van Wie races in the 200 backstroke on Saturday night.

Team captain Doug Van Wie had an impressive meet. He won the 200 backstroke on Saturday night to go with his victory in the 100 backstroke. "It's great my senior year being able to win two individual titles," he said.

"We had a goal of doubling our lead on the last day and really extend it."

The victorious Tigers take their traditional championship plunge on Saturday night.

"It was a combination of a great team effort," said Lundquist, a junior from Marietta, Ga. "We all operate so well as a team. It was great to have some of these new guys in here. They add to our team atmosphere so much. They bring a very positive attitude. It was a great way to finish off the meet. We could not have asked for a better way to end it."

For the women's team, junior Hayley Peirsol won her first SEC title, taking the 1650 freestyle in a time of 15:53.90.

"I really want to commend Georgia as they put together a solid meet, top to bottom," said Auburn co-head women's coach, Dorsey Tierney-Walker said. "It is always exciting to compete at the highest level and with the best swimmers in the country."

The NCAA Women's Swimming And Diving Championships are scheduled for March 16-18 at the Gabrielsen Natatorium on the campus of the University of Georgia. The NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships will be March 23-25 in Atlanta at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center where the AU men will go for a fourth straight national title.

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