[break] The Georgia swimming and diving teams will be seeking league titles as they compete in the SEC Championships Tuesday through Saturday at Auburn’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center.
[break] [break] The meet will begin each day with swimming prelims at 11 a.m. EST, followed by diving prelims at noon on Tuesday and 2 p.m. all other days. Finals will start at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and at 7 p.m. all other days. There will be live streams of all sessions beginning Tuesday at 7 p.m. on SEC Network +. ESPNU and the SEC Network will air 90-minute highlight shows multiple times, beginning on March 2 at 4 p.m. for the men and 5:30 p.m. for the women.
[break] [break] The No. 1-ranked Lady Bulldogs (11-0, 5-0 SEC) have won the conference title each of the last five seasons and 11 times overall. The No. 8 Bulldogs (8-2, 4-0 SEC) have placed third the last three years.
[break] [break] “We have a history of doing well at this meet, and our kids want to be a part of that history, too,” Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said. “I’m confident that we will be pretty tough at this meet, just like we’ve been the rest of the season. When push comes to shove, we’ve gotten after it. This is the most competitive conference meet there is, and you have to be tough. Top to bottom, this is the best one. It’s a great proving ground before we get to the NCAAs next month. You need a war to win a war. There will be a lot of great teams ranked in the top 10 at this meet, and we’re thankful that we’re among them.”
[break] [break] The Bulldogs are led by Chase Kalisz, who has the country’s fastest times in the 200 and 400 individual medley and also tops the SEC in the 200 butterfly. Matias Koski and Taylor Dale have the conference’s best times in the 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke, respectively. The Bulldogs’ 400 freestyle relay (Koski, Nicolas Fink, Gunnar Bentz and Michael Trice) and 800 freestyle relay (Bentz, Kalisz, Alec Cohen and Koski) have the country’s fastest times. The 400 medley relay of Dale, Fink, Pace Clark and Trice has the SEC’s top effort.
[break] [break] The Lady Bulldogs have the conference’s leading individuals in the 50 freestyle with Chantal Van Landeghem, the 100 freestyle with Olivia Smoliga, the 200 freestyle with Jordan Mattern, the 500 freestyle with Amber McDermott and the 200 backstroke with Kylie Stewart. The Lady Bulldogs also are tops in the league in the 200 (Smoliga, Van Landeghem, Maddie Locus and Lauren Harrington), 400 (Locus, Smoliga, Hali Flickinger and Van Landeghem) and 800 (Rachel Zilinskas, Stewart, McDermott and Anna Kolanowski) freestyle relays.
[break] [break] Georgia Boasts Past SEC Champs
Georgia can claim several past conference champions on its current rosters. For the Bulldogs, Nicolas Fink is the first man in SEC history to win the 100 breaststroke three straight years and he boasts a 200 breaststroke title. Chase Kalisz has won two consecutive 400 individual medley titles and also holds a win in the 200 individual medley. Matias Koski took the 500 freestyle in 2013. On the women’s side, Olivia Smoliga (50 and 100 freestyle) and Brittany MacLean (500 and 1,650 freestyle) each hold two individual wins. Amber McDermott won the 500 freestyle title in 2012 and Chantal Van Landeghem took the 50 freestyle title in 2013. Van Landeghem, Smoliga, McDermott, MacLean, Maddie Locus, Jordan Mattern and Lauren Harrington have been on SEC-winning relays.
[break] [break] Georgia, SEC In The Polls
The Lady Bulldogs are No. 1 in the latest CSCAA Division I Team Rankings. Other SEC schools in the poll are No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 7 Florida, No. 8 Auburn, No. 10 Tennessee, No. 20 LSU and No. 22 Kentucky. In the men’s poll, the Bulldogs are eighth, while Florida is No. 1, Auburn is No. 5, Tennessee is No. 13, Texas A&M is No. 14 and Missouri is No. 17.
[break] [break] No Place Like Home For Lady Bulldogs
The Lady Bulldogs topped Emory in the final home meet of the season, extending their school-record (covering all sports) win streak at Gabrielsen Natatorium to 94. Georgia is 95-1 all-time in home dual/tri meets. Invitationals and championships are not included in the streak. The streak began Nov. 8, 1995.
“I’m happy that the streak will continue for another year,” Coach Jack Bauerle said. “It’s something that we’re proud of and something that we never take for granted. We’re proud of the number of wins, but perhaps it’s more impressive the length of the streak in terms of years.”
To put the streak in perspective, on Nov. 8, 1995: “Seinfeld” was the nation’s top-rated show, and the “No soup for you” episode originally aired a week earlier; “Toy Story” was the No. 1 movie; and a gallon of gas cost about $1.25. 1995 also brought the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the introduction of the George Foreman Grill and the inaugural X Games. It’s also noteworthy that the members of Georgia’s current freshman class were born during that 1995-96 season.
[break] [break] Another Milestone For Bauerle
The victory at Tennessee on Jan. 24 was the 300th in Jack Bauerle’s career coaching the Lady Bulldogs. In 36 seasons with the women, he is now 301-33-2, joining Boston College’s Tom Groden as the lone members of the 300-wins club coaching women.
“I am very proud of the 300 wins,” Bauerle said. “It may have my name next to it, but this is a program accomplishment. No one person reaches a total like this. It’s due to a lot of great swimmers, divers and coaches that have been a part of the program. I’m thankful for and appreciative of everything they’ve done for Georgia.”
Bauerle has an additional 213 victories with the Bulldogs, giving him a combined 514. That figure ranks first all-time in the SEC, second among active coaches and fourth on the all-time list.
[break] [break] This And That For Georgia …
• Twelve Georgia student-athletes earned 20 SEC weekly honors during the regular season. Kylie Stewart and Gunnar Bentz were chosen as the Freshman of the Week three times apiece. Hali Flickinger, Amber McDermott and Chase Kalisz were two-time Swimmers of the Week and Ian Forlini twice was named Diver of the Week. Other winners were Matias Koski (swimmer), Nicolas Fink (swimmer), Chantal Van Landeghem (swimmer), Olivia Ball (diver), Kevin Litherland (freshman) and Meaghan Raab (freshman).
• The Lady Bulldogs completed the dual meet portion of the season with an 11-0 record — the 13th undefeated season in school history. Four of the previous squads went on to win the NCAA title, including the 2014 Lady Bulldogs who were 10-0-1.
• Assistant coach Stefanie Williams was an assistant for the United States at the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Perth, Australia, last month. Senior Associate Head Coach Harvey Humphries will serve on the U.S. staff at the World University Games in South Korea.
• Seniors Olivia Boggs and Jared Markham were Georgia’s representatives on the SEC’s Good Works Team.
[break] [break] Photo Credit: Sean Taylor