AU Swimmers Set American Record

A report from the first day of competition at the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships is featured.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--The Auburn women's team set an American record on Wednesday night and the men's team is in first place after the first day of competition at the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships.

The Auburn 800 freestyle relay team featuring of Ava Ohlgren, Caitlin Geary, Melissa Marik and Emily Kukors set a new American record. Their time of 6:57.28 smashed the old record by more than three seconds and won the race by more than six seconds.

While the men didn't have a spectacular swim like the women, they moved into first place in the team competition as they go for their 12 consecutive SEC title. Auburn has 126 points while Tennessee is second at 86.

The Auburn women's team is in sixth place with 74 points, but is only 15 points behind first place Florida.

In the 800 freestyle relay, sophomore Ava Ohlgren led off the relay and set an Auburn record in the 200 free with a time of 1:43.68. She broke the record of 1:43.72, set by Kukors, who swam anchor on the relay.

Auburn was in second place after Ohlgren's leadoff leg, trailing Tennessee following a SEC-record swim by Christine Magnuson (1:43.00). "I led off last year against Christine Magnuson, I feel like we race well together," said Ohlgren. "The last 50 I had, my legs were shot and I thought I was going so slow. When I found out I went 1:43.60 I was really excited because that was my best time by more than a second."

The Tigers took the lead on the second leg, swam by freshman Geary who posted a 1:43.85 time, the fastest second leg of the race by more than a second. "I really just went out and swam as hard as I could, as fast as I could and I had no idea I was going that fast, but I loved racing and getting ahead for our team," said Geary. "Just actually being on the relay for me was something really special. To be on a relay for the best team in the nation is something that you dream about."

Marik raced the third leg and maintained Geary's lead with a 1:45.51 split, the second-fastest in her leg. "I just wanted to do the best I can," said Marik. "I didn't really know what to expect and I was really glad that Caitlin got that lead because it was really nice to swim in front. I jumped in and just went for it."

Kukors, a senior, swam the fastest anchor leg with a time of 1:44.24."I didn't know where we were as far as time, but I knew for us it was just going to be a race against the clock," said Kukors. "Ava, Caitlin and Melissa did a great job of preparing me to just take care of business."

Auburn women's co-head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker said, "The 800 free relay team getting an American record, what can you say? I thought all four ladies swam smart and took advantage of a wonderful opportunity tonight. I'm thrilled for them, absolutely thrilled for them, especially the senior on that relay, Emily Kukors."

In the other women's event for the opening night, Auburn finished second in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:38.00, a NCAA automatic qualifying time. The team of Margo McCawley, Kara Denby, Alana Dillette and Emile Ewing finished second to Florida in the race. The Gators set a new SEC record with a time of 1:37.23.

"I'm really proud of our 200 medley relay team; Margo McCawley leading off at 24.6 was a fantastic leadoff leg," said Tierney-Walker. "We had a couple individuals who had never been on that relay before, trying out some new positions."

The men's team won the 200 medley relay in a time of 1:24.81 with Tennessee second in1:24.81. Scott Goodrich, Michael Silva, Alexei Puninski and Cesar Cielo swam their fastest time of the season while setting a new pool record. The team came within a quarter of a second of the SEC record, set by Auburn last year.

Cielo, the NCAA and U.S. Open record holder in the 50 free with a time of 18.69, swam an anchor freestyle split of 18.53 to give Auburn the win.

The men's team was third in the 800 freestyle relay with Tyler McGill, Pascal Wollach, Steve Scheren and Will Dove finished with a time of 6:26.10.

"We obviously got off to a real good start in the 200 medley relay and the diving, they just did an outstanding job," said head coach Richard Quick. "Honestly, the third place in the 800 free relay is the best we can do and if we can do the best we can do and maximize our opportunities, then you feel good about it."

Sophomore Kelly Marx led the Auburn divers with 414.55 points to take second place. Dan Mazzaferro was fourth with a score of 390.75. Caleb Dunnichay and Scott Morgan finished sixth and ninth. Dunnichay scored 366.15 points while Morgan came in at 337.45.

"That was Kelly's first time over 400 and Dan was right there behind him," said head diving coach Jeff Shaffer. "Caleb did a great job of putting six dives together and that is very encouraging. We just hope this all carries over to tomorrow."

Quick, who came out of retirement to coach the Tigers this year, said, "I think we have entered in a real good position and obviously we like the score, but there is a lot more swimming left--we are just getting started. I thought we pretty well performed the way I thought we could. We are here to qualify people for the NCAAs and prepare for that meet, but also trying to get a win this week, so I'm pleased with the steps we are taking."

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