Swimming and diving wins SEC Title

KNOXVILLE — The No. 1-ranked Georgia women's swimming and diving team won the Southeastern Conference title on Saturday, edging rival Auburn in the final relay of the event.

Kara Lynn Joyce and Mary DeScenza each won an individual title on Saturday at Tennessee's Student Aquatic Center, then teamed with Jessica Cole and Anna Miller to win the decisive 400-yard freestyle relay. The Lady Bulldogs finished with 1,094 points and Auburn recorded 1,075. Georgia won five straight titles from 1997-2001, but Florida won in 2002 and Auburn had won the last three.

"This is the best SECs we've ever had and it's the sweetest one we've ever had," Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said. "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."

Sebastien Rouault won his third title of the SECs on Saturday, pacing the No. 10 Bulldogs to a third-place finish. Georgia posted 761 points, trailing Auburn's 1,1101.5 and Florida's 939.5.

DeScenza and Joyce shared the Commissioner's Trophy signifying individual high-point honors. Rouault and Georgia diver Chris Colwill shared the Commissioner's Trophy on the men's side with Florida's Ryan Lochte.

In the four-day competition, the Lady Bulldogs won 12 SEC titles and the Bulldogs picked up six.

DeScenza won the women's 200-yard butterfly for the fourth straight year, becoming the first woman in SEC history to win the event each season. Her winning time was 1:54.23 (earlier in the year, she had a 1:54.21 to reach the NCAA automatic qualifying standard). Karen Guilkey was second in 1:58.54, lowering her NCAA provisional qualifying standard in the prelims with a 1:58.30, and Beth Grams was fifth in 1:59.11, also lowering her B-cut time. Earlier in the meet, DeScenza became just the second woman ever to win the 100 fly four straight times.

"This is the best swimming conference in the U.S., and to win four times in two events is just awesome," DeScenza said. "It feels so good because I have so much respect for the swimmers in the SEC. I can't wait to sit in the stands next year and cheer them on."

Joyce won the women's 100-yard freestyle for the second straight year and extended Georgia's dominance in the event. The Lady Bulldogs now have won the 100 free nine times in the past 10 years, with Courtney Shealy, Maritza Correia and Joyce posting all the wins. Joyce recorded a winning time of 47.67, dropping her A-cut standard. Cole was seventh in 50.08 and Miller was eighth in 50.53. Miller lowered her B-cut during prelims; Cole had a lower B-cut earlier in the year.

"The swim was OK, but I'm obviously very happy to get the win," Joyce said. "It was better than last year's time (47.87), and you always want to show improvement. I'm most happy that I got some points for our team."

The clinching relay was the final race of the event and it did not disappoint. The Lady Bulldogs stopped the clock in 3:15.67, dropping their A-cut standard, while Auburn touched in 3:18.31.

Putra won the women's 200-yard backstroke with an A-cut time of 1:55.56, the second-fastest showing in school history. She is the first Lady Bulldog to win the event at the SECs since Keegan Walkley won the last of four straight in 2001. Haley Chura took sixth with a time of 1:59.87 (dropping her B-cut standard to 1:59.15 in prelims), while Karly Brooks was 12th in 2:02.82.

"I swam much better than I did (during prelims), Putra said, referring to her time of 1:57.95. "I knew I couldn't win unless I did better. I concentrated very hard to swim a better way. I was really sore and tired, but I knew I could do it."

In the women's 1,650-yard freestyle, Laura Conway placed second with a time of 16:01.09, dropping her A-cut standard. Stephanie Carr finished fifth in 16:32.05, while Claire Maust was sixth in 16:32.45. Both Carr and Maust lowered their B-cut times.

Sarah Poewe placed second in the women's 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:11.52, her first A-cut of the season in a race Bauerle called "critical to the win." Mhyria Miller finished ninth in 2:16.73 and Melissa Klein was 13th in 2:16.00. Miller dropped her B-cut time and Klein recorded her first. In women's platform diving, Sara Hershman finished fourth with 236.85 points and Emily Hunter was sixth with 233.45 points.

Rouault defended his title in the men's 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 14:40.81, breaking the SEC record he set a year ago and lowering his A-cut standard. Rouault, who became the first Bulldog to win the event twice, was nearly 13 seconds ahead of Alabama's Mark Randall. The Bulldogs' Matthew Owen placed sixth in 15:21.33, dropping his B-cut time.

"It's really a great feeling to be first," Rouault said. "I hope I can come back the next two years and have a chance to win."

Chris Spooner placed seventh in the men's 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:46.66, while Will Thorburn was eighth in 1:46.76. Each swimmer lowered his B-cut standard. In the men's 100-yard freestyle, Cameron Hollinger placed 15th with a time of 44.59. He dropped his B-cut standard with a 44.55 during the morning session.

Neil Versfeld paced the Bulldogs in the men's 200-yard breaststroke as he touched in 1:58.23 to finish third and lower his B-cut time. Jeff Parsley was 12th in 2:01.87 and Mikey Larmoyeux was 16th in 2:03.72. Gil Stovall finished second in the men's 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:43.21, posting his first A-cut time of the year. Joe Redmon was fourth in 1:46.66 and Jonathan Schmidt was ninth in 1:47.25, each lowering the B-cut time.

In the men's 400-yard freestyle relay, the Georgia team of Hollinger, Nathan Bibliowicz, Stovall and Peter Verhoef finished sixth with a time of 2:59.20.

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