LEXINGTON, Ky. The swimming portion of the Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships got underway here in the Lancaster Aquatic Center Wednesday with a pair of relays swims that saw the Alabama Crimson Tide getting off to a hot start.
“We got out strong tonight,” head coach Eric McIlquham said. “Our 200 medley relays both earned NCAA cuts and the 800 freestyle relays were very consistent and about where I thought we’d be, probably a little faster than I thought on the women’s side. Now we just have to build forward from here.”
Alabama’s men finished second in the 200 medley relay when sophomore Chris Perry, senior Vlad Polyakov, freshman Alin Mihalca and senior Apostolis Tsagkarkais combined to touch at 1:27.29. The Crimson Tide’s time was just shy of its school record of 1:27.15 set in 2005. The time also bettered the NCAA “B” standard and puts Alabama in good shape for a bid to the national championship in that event. It also marks Alabama’s best relay finish at the SEC Championships since 1994.
Sophomore Mark Randall, Mihalca, senior Tim Hansen and Tsagkarakis combined to post a 6:37.20 in the 800 freestyle relay, taking seventh place, also earning and NCAA “B” cut.
Alabama’s women finished fifth in the 800 freestyle relay and eighth in the 200 medley relay. Freshman Agustina DeGiovanni, senior Melina Bassino, sophomore Vanessa Von der Hyde and senior Tara Theilemann finished with a 7:25.50 in the 800 relay. Freshman Allyson Angle, de Giovanni, Bassino and junior Erin Sparks posted a 1:42.45 in the 200 medley, earning an NCAA “B” standard.
In the team race the Tide men are fourth with 107 points, just three back of Georgia. Auburn is in first with 251 points followed by Florida with 144. Tennessee rounds out the top five with 92 points. Alabama’s women are eighth with 67 points. Auburn is first with 164 points, followed by homestanding Kentucky with 159 and LSU with 155.5. Tennessee (109) and Georgia (102.5) finish off the top five.
The pool action gets started in earnest on Thursday with the preliminaries of the 500 freestyle, 200 IM, 50 freestyle and 200 freestyle relays starting at 10 a.m. ET. Randall has a chance to make some noise in the 500 while at the other end of the distance spectrum Tsagkarakis has led the conference in the 50 freestyle all season. Sparks and de Giovanni both have a chance to score some points in the 200 IM.