Auburn's Swimming Domination Continues

Lexington, Ky.--Coach David Marsh's final run as coach of the Auburn swimming teams at the SEC Championships was an impressive one like so many previous ones.

Auburn's men's team won its 11th straight SEC title while the AU women were crowned champions for the fourth time in the past five years. Both Auburn teams are the defending NCAA champions.

The Auburn women scored 889 points to easily outdistance last year's NCAA runnerup, Georgia, which finished second with 617 points. It was the most dominating performance ever for the AU women at the conference championships. Their previous largest margin was by 156.5 points in 2003 by winning by 228 this weekend on the University of Kentucky campus.

In the men's competition the Tigers scored 934 points for plenty of cushion to get past second place Florida, which finished with 819 points.

"I always tell our team, you never take an SEC Championship for granted because it's such a tough conference with so many great programs gunning for you," Marsh said. "Our team did a real good job of getting done what they needed to get done. I'm most happy with the team being able to come in here and have our best performance of the year. It seems like we've gotten better every meet."

The Auburn women won four events on Saturday, getting victories from Hayley Peirsol (1650 freestyle), Julie Stupp (200 breaststroke) and Kristen Hastrup (200 butterfly) before closing the event with a win in the 400 freestyle relay.

The Tigers had plenty to celebrate on Saturday night in Lexington.

"I'm proud of the women and how they responded," said co-women's head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. "I feel like we got better every session. We were solid performers across the board in every session. That's the key to a meet like this is to continue to try to bring your best each session.

"I couldn't be more proud of our seniors," she said. "It's always nice to go out with a title. I'm proud for David to be able to go out with two titles, and certainly this was in memory of Ralph Crocker who has been in our thoughts throughout the meet." Crocker, an Auburn assistant coach and a former AU swimmer, died during the season after battling a lengthy illness.

The sprinters on the men's team continued to shine, particularly Cesar Cielo, who won the 100 free with his second SEC record of the meet, and anchored the winning 400 free relay team. Cielo broke the record in the 100 freestyle while leading an Auburn sweep of the medals in that event, and also set a school record with a winning time of 41.85. Cielo, who also won the 50 free earlier in the meet, smashed the previous SEC mark of 42.53 set by former Tiger Fred Bousquet in 2004, as well as topping Bousquet's school record of 41.87 set in 2005.

Matt Targett finished second with a time of 42.64 while Bryan Lundquist finished third and also met the NCAA automatic qualifying mark with a time of 43.09. Alexei Puninski was sixth in 44.32 seconds, while Scott Goodrich won the consolation final in 44.36 seconds to finish in ninth place.

"It feels great," said Cielo. "Again, I was very surprised by my time. That was about a full second off of my best time. I was feeling pretty good tonight. My start was pretty good and I felt good in the water. It's awesome being part of this program and for the second straight year going 1-2-3 in the 50 and the 100."

Marsh said, "Cesar is a phenomenal talent and a kid that has a lot of heart for racing. He's a guy that in many ways, it's more our job just to teach him some details and stay out of his way. He has continued to blossom nicely. Cesar, Matt Targett and Bryan Lundquist all just had tremendous swims in that event."

Cesar Cielo (center) celebrates a victory in the 200 freestyle with teammates Bryan Lundquist (left) and Matt Target (right). Cielo won the event in SEC record time while Target was second and Lundquist third

Cielo's double victory in the 50 free and 100 free marked the fourth year in a row that an Auburn swimmer has swept both of those events. Bousquet accomplished the feat in 2004-05 and Cielo reached the accomplishment in each of his first two seasons at Auburn.

The women started fast Saturday night with a sweep of their own in the 1650 free. Peirsol, the defending NCAA champion in that event, repeated as SEC champion with a time of 15:56.37. Adrienne Binder, the SEC champion in 2004 and 2005, was second in 16:06.05, and Chelsea Haser was a surprising third with a time of 16:09.97, setting a personal best by nearly 15 seconds. All three recorded NCAA automatic qualifying marks.

"I think for right now that was a good performance for me," said Peirsol. "I have NCAAs coming up and then Worlds and Dual in the Pool so my season's a lot longer than it normally is, so I'm really happy with where I'm at right now. But it definitely hurt a lot more than a lot of other miles. I only have one more short course mile in my career, which makes it exciting and fun."

Julie Stupp won her second SEC title of the meet and third of her career by taking the 200 breast crown with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 2:13.44. Stupp had placed third in that event at last year's SEC meet. Auburn was well-represented in the final, as Alicia Jensen was second in 2:14.85, Anne Amardeilh was fourth in 2:15.27 and Abby MacGregor finished seventh in 2:17.31.

"I was really happy with the swim," said Stupp. "I haven't had a great weekend so it felt really good, and we had four breaststrokers in there which was really exciting. We just wanted to show up and have fun tonight. I was a little disappointed after the 400 IM so I wanted to come back and prove something to myself."

Kristen Hastrup won her first SEC title in the 200 fly one year after placing fourth in that event, breaking her own personal best with a time of 1:57.10. Tawnie Bethune, who was sixth in last year's meet, improved to second this year with a time of 1:58.00.

"It feels great," said Hastrup. "I haven't won a major championship before. I've been in a lot of consolation finals so I know what it feels like to just barely miss it. So I'm so excited that this one time it was there and I was able to do this. I had a pretty good long course season so I was expecting to drop some time here. I didn't drop as much as I wanted but I will take a best time any day of the week. I'm really happy about it and hope that I can do even better at NCAAs."

"Kristen Hastrup is one of the most consistent hard workers on the team," said Tierney-Walker. "For her to reap the rewards of that and get a victory is absolutely wonderful."

The men concluded the meet with another relay victory, this time taking the 400 free relay. The team of Lundquist, Targett, James Wike and Cielo won the race going away with a time of 2:51.31, which is the fastest time in the nation this year.

The women did likewise, with the team of Ava Ohlgren, Emily Kukors, Emile Ewing and Kara Denby posting the nation's fastest time of 3:15.33. For Kukors and Denby, it was the end of a busy but successful weekend. Both swimmers competed in seven events, and Denby finished in the top three in all seven while Kukors placed no worse than fourth.

Denby clocked the second-fastest time in the nation in the women's 100 free with a mark of 48.05, which also broke her own school record set during the prelims, but unfortunately Georgia's Kala Lynn Joyce posted the nation's fastest time of 47.62 to nip Denby. Kukors finished in 48.99 seconds to place fourth after posting runner-up finishes in the 200 free and 200 individual medley earlier in the week. Ohlgren placed 10th with a time of 49.18 in the consolation finals, while Ewing finished 14th in 50.68 seconds.

John Scott medaled by placing second in the 200 fly, clocking a season-best time of 1:45.48, while Tyler McGill closed strong to finish fourth with a time of 1:46.19, besting his prelims time by nearly a full second. Matt Bartlett swam a 1:50.89 in the consolation final to finish in 13th place.

"John Scott's silver medal is a major move in his career," said Marsh. "He was a second-tier guy who is beginning to step up to the big time. As a captain of our team he has led the team in so many ways, and tonight he led it by swimming fast."

In the women's 200 backstroke Rachel Goh finished fourn 1:56.99 while Melissa Marik was fifth in 1:57.57, earning an NCAA automatic qualifier for the first time this season. Julianne McLane also swam in the championship final, finishing seventh in 1:58.17.

In the men's 1650 free Will Dove and Daniel Slocki earned NCAA provisional qualifying marks, as Dove was fourth in 15:21.99 and Slocki was seventh in 15:30.35. Andrew Callahan earned ninth place for Auburn with a time of 15:41.10.

James Wike, who finished fourth in the 100 back earlier in the week, placed fifth in the 200 back with a time of 1:45.24. Joey Schneider placed 10th with a time of 1:46.68 in the consolation finals, just ahead of Matt Bartlett, who took 11th place with a time of 1:47.39.

In the men's 200 breaststroke, Sean Osborne was seventh with a time of 2:00.85, while David Maras met the NCAA provisional qualifying mark with a time of 2:00.33 in the consolation final, placing 11th.

Auburn 2007 SEC Champions

Women (12 event titles)

Tawnie Bethune (400 MR)

Adrienne Binder (400 IM)

Kara Denby (200 MR, 400 FR, 800 FR)

Emile Ewing (400 FR, 800 FR)

Corey Gerlach (3-meter diving)

Rachel Goh (100 back, 400 MR, 200 MR)

Kristen Hastrup (200 fly)

Alicia Jensen (400 MR)

Emily Kukors (400 MR, 400 FR, 800 FR)

Margo McCawley (200 MR)

Ava Ohlgren (200 IM, 400 FR, 800 FR)

Hayley Peirsol (1650 free)

Julie Stupp (200 breast, 200 MR)

Men (11 event titles)

Cesar Cielo (50 free, 100 free, 200 FR, 400 MR, 400 FR)

Scott Goodrich (100 back, 400 MR, 200 MR)

Bryan Lundquist (200 FR, 400 FR)

David Maras (200 MR)

Sean Osborne (400 MR)

Alexei Puninski (100 fly, 200 FR, 400 MR, 200 MR)

Steven Segerlin (1-meter, 3-meter, platform diving)

Matt Targett (200 FR, 200 MR, 400 FR)

James Wike (400 FR)

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