SWIMMING: SEC Swim Champs Are Where It's At!

It is now time for Gator fans to get out there and support their Gator's swimming and diving teams. The University of Florida is hosting the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at the O'Connell Center Natatorium. Hell, I didn't even know that part of the O'Connell Center was called the Natatorium, so I am as guilty as some of you. But gosh, you should see what you are missing!

There is some great SEC pageantry with all the teams involved with different pockets of the crowd rooting on their respective teams.

It's a standing room only crowd at the SEC Swimming Championships

It is much like an SEC basketball tournament, except the crowd isn't half Kentucky no matter where the venue. Some of the best swimming and diving teams in America are in the SEC so the competition is about as good as it gets, not just here in the SEC but anywhere in the world because the best in the SEC are among the best to be found anywhere on the planet. Auburn, Georgia, and Florida are the top three teams in the conference. On the women's side, these are the top three teams in the nation. On the men's side, Auburn and Florida are both in the top three in the country. That is how good the teams are in the SEC.

It's off to the races! Due to the competitive nature of these, it's a lot of fun to watch.

Saturday is the last day of the championships and I am far from understanding the point system, but according to the folks at the University of Florida Sports Information Department, this could be a battle-royale on the last day. The release from last nights meet started off with the notion tomorrow could be special, "a final day of competition that could require the final event of the meet to determine who will be crowned as the SEC's top teams."

If a chance at another SEC Championship doesn't get your blood flowing Gator fans, you need to come out and show the many fans from other SEC schools just who owns the "pond" that is connected to "The Swamp." Right now the Auburn fans and their entourage seem to be stealing the show in the stands. Do you want to let that happen? That isn't to say that the Gators aren't well represented, but it should be a land slide as to who has the most fannies in the bleachers.

Most noticable was the Auburn contigent in their orange glory (see upper left).

This should never be the case. Florida used to dominate swimming in the SEC in much the same way Mary Wise has dominated SEC volleyball over the years. Coach Gregg Troy has been moving his team up and up the charts every year and now he has them on the verge of winning the SEC and National titles just like the Gators used to. You should have been there Friday night! You would have seen that there was a Gator on the medal stand in either first, second or third place in every single one of the 12 events. The Gators placed first, as in number one, as in numero uno, in five of the twelve events. The pond lizards are here and the SEC and NCAA is taking notice.

Coach Troy has his young Gator team on a collision course with destiny. They may not win the SEC championship this year and they may not pull the NCAA titles off this year. But the young pond dwellers are going to make everyone work to win it and they are going to get their own in the near future. Seven of the 12 medal winners from the ten single events from Friday night will return for the Gators next year. Twelve swimmers who were in the finals of the ten events should return to the team next year.

Gabriel Mangabeira pulls away and ends up winning the 100 yard Butterfly Championship!

Junior Ryan Lochte has been stealing the show this week. He opened the evening in record setting fashion as he captured his second individual title of the meet, winning the 400-yard individual medley in a new SEC record time of 3:39.08.

Florida Olympic gold medalist Darian Townsend teamed up with Adam Sioui (Ontario, Canada) to earn the top-two places in the 200-yard freestyle in times of 1:34.41 and 1:34.76.

"I'm so excited," Townsend said. "I saw Ryan Lochte and Caroline Burckle winning races and breaking records, so for me to finally get a win under my belt is awesome." Continuing her strong performance at SEC's Florida freshman Caroline Burckle won the women's 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:44.64. Junior Vipa Bernhardt won the women's 100-yard breaststroke by notching a time of 1:00.11.

"It's my best time by a lot, it felt great," Bernhardt said. "I'm just so proud that I made it."

There are records being broken all over the place in the O'Connell Center Natatorium. The crowd is packed and the Gators have a chance to win another SEC title. The Gators are about to touch the wall for the final time this SEC season and looking to prepare themselves for the chance at NCAA titles. There are nine of 12 SEC schools competing and their fans dotted all over your home surf. This is what college sports is all about.

View our photo gallery for more photos from the SEC Championship!

Fightin Gators Top Stories