Individual titles by Brittany MacLean and Olivia Smoliga highlighted Georgia’s efforts on Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Championships at the Mizzou Aquatic Center.
The No. 2-ranked Lady Bulldogs ended the night in second place with 430 points as MacLean won the 500 freestyle and Smoliga claimed the 50 freestyle. Georgia trails Tennessee’s 437.5 and leads Texas A&M’s 412.5.
On the men’s side, the No. 3 Bulldogs stand third with 362 points, trailing Florida’s 504 and Auburn’s 497.
“I thought it was another good day for us on both sides,” Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said. “We could not be prouder of Brittany and Olivia. Winning an individual title in this conference is no small feat. It’s such a proud moment when you see one of your athletes on the podium, especially in first place. Overall, we had a great night after a couple of slip-ups in the morning, but we responded well.”
MacLean, a senior, won the women’s 500 freestyle for the second time in her career as she stopped the clock in 4:33.10. That broke her own SEC meet record of 4:34.63 set in 2014 and the pool record of 4:35.56 established by teammate Hali Flickinger during Wednesday’s prelims.
“I kind of tweaked my hamstring a little bit this morning, so I was cautious at the beginning and really focused on my legs,” MacLean said. “Having Hali racing with me was a nice motivator because that’s what we do in practice every day. I just wanted to get the win for the Bulldogs. I’m not as impressed with my time right now. I have lots of time to get faster. We’ll take it and move on into the rest of the meet.”
Flickinger came in second with a time of 4:33.90, while Stephanie Peters took fifth in 4:42.52 and Rachel Zilinskas placed eighth in 4:48.92. MacLean’s win was Georgia’s third straight, its seventh in the last eight years, and its 11th overall in the event.
Smoliga, a junior, took the women’s 50 freestyle for the third straight season as she reached the wall in 21.67. That is the nation’s fastest time this season and broke the pool record of 21.80 she set during the Wednesday prelims.
“I think the key was getting up on the start and making sure of where I was on the turn,” Smoliga said. “I looked over and saw Maddie (Banic of Tennessee) and Natalie (Hinds of Florida) right next to me and that’s what the 50 is — start, turn, finish. I love having the Georgia fans and my teammates cheering for me like that.”
Meaghan Raab paced the Lady Bulldogs in the women’s 200 individual medley as she took third in 1:55.99, while Annie Zhu came in eighth in 1:58.33. Emily Cameron won the consolation final for ninth with a time of 1:57.09 and Megan Kingsley placed 10th in 1:57.23.
The women’s 200 freestyle relay of Smoliga, Raab, Kylie Stewart and Flickinger finished second with a time of 1:28.70.
Gunnar Bentz came in fourth in the men’s 200 individual medley as he reached the wall in 1:43.17, followed by Jay Litherland in seventh with a time of 1:45.01. Racing two lanes over from his brother, Sam, an Auburn swimmer, Ty Stewart won the consolation final in 1:45.39 for ninth.
In the men’s 500 freestyle, Kevin Litherland (4:18.97) and Garrett Powell (4:19.83) were seventh and eighth, respectively, in the championship final. Aidan Burns won the B final in 4:18.88 for ninth place and Matias Koski claimed the C final for 17th in 4:17.46.
Michael Trice came in 11th in the men’s freestyle with a time of 19.76.
The Bulldogs’ 200 freestyle relay of Trice, Taylor Dale, Koski and Pace Clark placed sixth in 1:18.52.
Crawford Berry paced the Bulldogs in men’s 1-meter diving as he finished 11th with 313.95 points. Ian Forlini c2ame in 14th 301.75 points.
The SEC Championships will continue on Thursday with the 100 butterfly, the 200 freestyle, the 400 individual medley and the women’s 3-meter springboard. Prelims will start at 11 a.m. and finals will begin at 7 p.m. Sessions can be viewed on SEC Network +.