Maggie Bowen set a SEC and pool record on the women's side of the 200-yard freestyle as Auburn placed four swimmers in the top eight. The event catapulted them to a second day total of 287.5 points compared to second place Georgia's total of 235. Florida is within striking distance with 197 points, but this appears to be a two-team race as Auburn tries for its first title on the women's side. The men are going for their seventh consecutive SEC Championship.
"The men's IM was the point-getter for us tonight," Auburn Coach David Marsh said following Thursday's competition. "Justin Caron really stepped up for us in that event. In the women's IM, I am very pleased with this morning's race. This afternoon, once again, Maggie Bowen did an outstanding job. I look forward to watching her swim tomorrow. Freddy Bousquet, who came to us mid-year, has done a great job. He brings a lot of fire and passion to this team. As far as the rest of the races, we did a great job tonight. We are in the position that we would like to be in."
While the results came Thursday night, the day was actually set up by a strong morning performance in the preliminaries as Tigers filled the pool to overflowing in several events. That allowed them to build up a huge point lead early in the night after solid showings in the 500-yard freestyle. On the men's side B.J. Jones finished third with a time of 4:18.26 while Magda Dyszkiewicz finished second on the women's side with a time of 4:44.13 and teammate Heather Kemp was fourth at 4:44.87. Heading out of the pool, both the men and women held slim leads. That would change greatly in the 200-yard individual medley.
Maggie Bowen set a SEC record Thursday night in the 200-Yard Individual Medley.
Placing five swimmers in the finals, the men's team was hoping to roast Florida early with the Gators having two of the remaining three competitors in the field. George Bovell provided the spark the Tigers needed to start the fire. Swimming a great race, he defeated Ryan Lochte of Florida by .84 seconds to win the event. Auburn swimmers Mark Gangloff (1:46.31) and Eric Shanteau (1:46.43) finished third and fourth while Brad Knveven (1:48.80) and Justin Caron (1:49.35) finished sixth and seventh to help the Tigers to a commanding lead following the event.
"I have been swimming really well lately so tonight I swam hard and it paid off," Bovell said. "This meet was a little intimidating for me. This meet is a little more intense than the ones I have swam in before. It feels awesome to come in and win in my first SEC meet."
It was business as usual for Bowen on the women's side as she set a SEC and pool record with a time of 1:55.73, a full three seconds ahead of her teammate and second place finisher Kirsty Coventry (1:58.96). The two, combined with Lauren Duerk (2:01.68) in seventh place and Leslie Lunsmann (2:02.08) to put the women in great position to distance themselves from the Bulldogs later in the night.
The men would again dominate the pool in the next event, the 50-yard freestyle. Mid-year transfer Fred Bousquet (19.57) edged out Renato Gueraldi by just .02 seconds to win the event with Ryan Wochomurka (19.78) finishing fourth, Derek Gibb (:20.07) in sixth and Matt Kidd (:20.10) rounded out the field in eighth place. With Florida having just one swimmer in the finals, the men were able to put a sizeable lead on second place heading to the final event of the day on the men's side.
"This is very exciting for me," Bousquet said. "We don't have meets like this in France and this is my first SEC meet so that makes it even more special. I felt like I was going fast in the swim. This is just a great feeling to win in the SEC."
Before that took place the women again took center stage with Georgia's Maritza Correia winning the 50-free with a time of :21.93, but Auburn would take places 2-4. Eileen Coparropa (22.07), Becky Short (22.44), and Jenni Anderson (22.89) kept Georgia from gaining on the team by nudging two Bulldog swimmers out of the top four and keeping the points lead going to the diving pool for the Women's one-meter springboard event.
Normally a sore spot for Auburn teams, the diving competition was solid for the Tigers on Thursday night as Ashley Rubenstein finished second overall with 320.30 points. Winner Jaime Sanger from Tennessee won with 323.25 points while no Georgia diver finished in the top eight. That left just the 200-yard freestyle relay to swim on both the men's and women's side. It would be a strong end to a strong night for the Tigers.
With the team of Wochomurka, Gibb, Kidd and Bousquet, Auburn smoked the field to win the event with a time of 1:17.73, ahead of Florida's time of 1:18.39. Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina rounded out the field.
Setting an SEC and pool record with a time of 1:29.48, the women's team of Short, Coparropa, Anderson and Bowen easily ousted second-place Georgia by almost a full second to win the final event of the evening in spectacular fashion.
Friday the action gets started at 10:00 a.m. with the preliminaries and the finals will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday the schedule remains the same for the final day of competition.