The Georgia women’s swimming and diving team claimed its sixth straight league title on Saturday at the SEC Championships at Auburn’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center.
The championship is Georgia’s 12th overall, all under Coach Jack Bauerle. The six consecutive championships is a new school record as Georgia had a five-year run from 1997-2001 and extended the one that began in 2010. The Lady Bulldogs also won in 2006.
“I’ve said it many times, but it bears saying again: This is a feeling that never gets old,” Bauerle said. “But at the same time, every championship has its own unique qualities. Every team puts its own stamp on a championship and this team is no different. We’ve been able to develop depth this year, so we’re getting points up and down the lineup. This feels great. We’re going to enjoy this one.”
“I’m glad that my class wasn’t the one to break the streak. That would not have been good,” senior Amber McDermott said with a laugh. “This is an amazing feeling. I’m so proud of all my teammates. We have great chemistry on this team and everyone did her job this week. That’s what it takes to win a title.”
The Lady Bulldogs rolled up 1,450 points over the five-day meet, outdistancing Texas A&M (1,166) and Florida (963.5). Next month, the Lady Bulldogs will be vying for their third consecutive and seventh overall national championship.
On the men’s side, the Bulldogs came in second for the 17th time in school history but their first since 1998. The Bulldogs had been third four of the past five seasons. The Bulldogs posted 1,134.5 points to trail only Florida’s 1,314.5 Auburn was third with 1,084.
The first- and second-place efforts gave Georgia the best combined program at the meet.
Hali Flickinger and Chase Kalisz earned the Commissioner’s Trophy for high-point honors. Flickinger finished first in the 400-yard individual medley and second in the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard butterfly. Kalisz won the 200-yard butterfly and the 400-yard individual medley and came in fourth in the 200-yard individual medley.
“This was a big meet for Georgia,” Kalisz said. “The guys are really proud of our women, but we’re proud of what we did too. It shows that we’re making progress and that we’re getting where we want to be.”
McDermott led the Lady Bulldogs’ effort in the 1,650-yard freestyle on Saturday as she placed second in 15:49.79. Brittany MacLean took fifth in 16:09.15, while Rachel Zilinskas came in sixth in 16:14.49 and Stephanie Peters claimed 16th in 16:27.84.
Flickinger earned her silver medal as she stopped the clock in 1:51.68 in the 200-yard backstroke. Kylie Stewart placed fifth in 1:52.82 and Jordan Mattern was 14th in 1:55.59.
Chantal Van Landeghem and Maddie Locus medaled for Georgia in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing second and third, respectively, in 47.95 and 48.17. Olivia Smoliga won the B final for ninth with a time of 48.90, while Meaghan Raab came in 22nd in 49.84.
The Lady Bulldogs capped the meet with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Locus, Smoliga, Lauren Harrington and Van Landeghem stopped the clock in 3:12.97.
Matias Koski opened the meet for the Bulldogs by winning the 1,650-yard freestyle in 14:38.72. Kevin Litherland placed sixth in 14:54.79, followed by Garrett Powell in eighth at 14:59.56.
“I actually just decided to do the mile (Friday) night,” Koski said. “It was between the 100 and the mile, and I had a good feeling for the mile so I went with that. Not thinking about it too much during the meet, not psyching myself out, was probably a good thing. I just said, ‘Let’s do it and see what happens.'”
Nicolas Fink gave the Bulldogs their second crown of the night as he defended his 2014 title in the 200-yard breaststroke in 1:51.79. During the morning prelims, he broke the SEC record with a time of 1:51.58. Gunnar Bentz took 12th in 1:56.70.
“I have felt great today,” Fink said. “It’s the last day of SECs, so the adrenaline is really pumping. I’m happy with my breaststroke today. We practice so hard all day every day, so I’ve learned how to race. I really appreciate the way my coaches and teammates push me.”
Ty Stewart was the Bulldogs’ top finisher in the 200-yard backstroke as he touched in 1:42.35 to take sixth. Jared Markham finished seventh in 1:42.91, while Jay Litherland placed 10th in 1:42.57, Pace Clark came in 13th in 1:43.35 and Powell took 16th in 1:44.70.
The 400-yard freestyle relay of Koski, Fink, Bentz and Michael Trice came in fourth with a school-record time of 2:51.68. Koski’s leadoff split of 42.96 eclipsed the school record.
The Bulldogs came in fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay as Koski, Fink, Bentz and Trice touched in a school-record 2:51.68.
Trice tied for 14th in 43.74 as the Bulldogs’ lone entry in the 100-yard freestyle.
Ian Forlini came in 19th on platform diving with 277.85 points and Crawford Berry placed 23rd with 228.65.
The Lady Bulldogs won eight events during the conference meet: Van Landeghem in the 50-yard freestyle, McDermott in the 500-yard freestyle, Smoliga in the 100-yard backstroke, Flickinger in the 400-yard individual medley, Olivia Ball on 3-meter springboard, and the 200-, 400- and 800-yard freestyle relays.
The Bulldogs earned six victories: Kalisz in the 200-yard butterfly and the 400-yard individual medley, Koski in the 200- and 1,650-yard freestyle, Fink in the 100-yard breaststroke and Stewart in the 200-yard individual medley.
The postseason will continue for Georgia next Saturday and Sunday as it hosts the Bulldog Last Chance Meet at Gabrielsen Natatorium. Georgia’s divers will compete March 9-11 in the Zone B Championship, also in Athens. The NCAA Championships will take place March 19-21 for the women in Greensboro, N.C., and March 26-28 for the men in Iowa City, Iowa.