Feb. 18, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. -
Alabama made a clean sweep of the diving events on day one of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championships being held in the Martin Aquatic Center when junior Aaron Fleshner won the first title of the meet, the men's one-meter springboard, and freshman Carrie Dragland took top honors off the women's three-meter board later in the night.
"This was a great, great start for us," Alabama head coach Eric McIlquham said. "Aaron and Carrie looked great. They both had their best night. Aaron missed the NCAA record off the one-meter by less than seven points."
Alabama's men and women are in fourth place after day one, scoring 78 and 75 points respectively. Auburn leads the men's meet with 118 points while Florida leads the women's race with 116 points.
In sixth place after the preliminary round, Fleshner amassed 414.15 points in the finals, outscoring the rest of the field by more than 40 points. His total was nearly 100 points better than his 314.25 during the preliminary round.
"I needed to keep calm and do whatever I could do to keep myself focused," Fleshner said. "To win this championship feels awesome. Last year, I was second in this event, so to come back and win it this year feels awesome."
Fleshner will attempt to defend his SEC three-meter title on Thursday. Sophomore Adam Booher also scored for the Tide off the one-meter board, taking 13th place with 286.35 points.
Dragland, in third place after the three-meter board prelims, scored 366.50 points in finals, six points ahead of the second-place finisher. Sophomore Lauren Dunn also scored off the three-meter board, taking ninth place with 288.35 point.
"Winning a championship for my team is unbelievable, I feel like I am dreaming right now," Dragland said. "I just went out there and hit all the dives that I could, and I feel like I dove better than I ever have."
Fleshner's win is the 23rd individual SEC diving title by a member of the Tide men's team. It was the first SEC one-meter title for the Tide men since Rafael Alvarez in 1995. Dragland's title was the 10th by a member of the Alabama women's team and the first since Lane Bassham won both the one and three-meter boards in 2004.
Alabama also set a pair of school records, with the men shattering the 800 freestyle mark while the women lowered the Tide mark in the 200 medley relay.
"We got off to a fast start for sure," McIlquham said. "Two SEC titles and two school records is something we can and will build on throughout this championship. This is what we've been training all season for and this was a great way to get things started."
The Crimson Tide men knocked off the second oldest school record on the books when sophomores Denes Zubcsek and Cosma Catalin, freshman Joe Ziegler and senior Alin Mihalca combined to post a 6:24.98 in the 800 freestyle, bettering the previous mark, set in 1983, by more than three seconds.
Sophomore Cassie Craddock, junior Agustina de Giovanni, junior Hannah Brinks and sophomore Ida Persson set the school record and earned an NCAA provisional standard in the 200 medley relay with a school-record 1:39.38, bettering the previous mark, set in 2002, by half a second.
The 200 medley relay of senior Chris Perry, junior Luke Boutwell, sophomore Denes Zubcsek and junior Riley Boulden touched the wall with a season-best 1:27.47, taking seventh place and earning an NCAA provisional standard.
The Tide women finished eighth and earned an NCAA provisional qualifying time in the 800 freestyle when junior Shannon Van Hoy, sophomore Kate Shannon Gray, junior Agustina de Giovanni and junior Maggie Zblewski combined for a 7:18.28.
The championships continue Thursday with preliminaries starting at 10 a.m.