Feb. 14, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -
The Alabama swimming and diving teams get the postseason started this week at the Southeastern Conference Championships. The championships are being held in the Allen Jones Aquatic Center on the University of Tennessee and get underway Wednesday, Feb. 15.
"This is what we've been pointing toward all year long," UA head coach Eric McIlquham said. "We're really looking forward to getting up there and competing, trying to get as many NCAA cuts as we can and get as many kids as we can to the national championships. We'll also see how many school records we can set and how many kids we can get up on the awards platform."
Alabama's men are led by senior Joe Ziegler, who holds the school record in the 200 backstroke, and sophomores BJ Hornikel and Alex Coci. Hornikel is undefeated through his two years in the 100 freestyle dual meet races while Coci finished third in the 100-meter butterfly at the USA Winter National Championships in December.
"Joe Ziegler's been swimming really well; he's already put up a couple NCAA cut times in dual meets," McIlquham said. "We also have a couple sophomores that are really coming on strong. BJ Hornikel , in addition to bringing that undefeated streak in the 100 freestyle dual meet races into SECs, will also a big part of our relays. Alex Coci, who's really come on strong this past year, has been one of our most versatile swimmers. He's going to go in as one of the top seeds in the 200 butterfly."
The Tide women are led by freshman Kaylin Burchell, sophomores Alex Popa and Kristel Vourna along with fifth-year senior Ida Persson. Burchell has been dominate in the breaststroke events this season and stands among the league's best coming into the championships. Both Popa and Vourna earned Freshman All-SEC honors a year ago and have continued to improve this season. Vourna is the school record holder in the 100 butterfly while Persson holds the school mark in the 100 freestyle.
"Kaylin Burchell has come in and just done tremendous things," McIlquham said. "She is sitting in the top five in her events, the 100 and 200 breaststroke, on the conference level. Alex Popa's really done a nice job and I'm really looking forward to watching her compete in the breaststroke events. Kristel Vourna and Ida Persson will also make an impact for us this week and we're looking forward to seeing what they can do."
The SEC Championships were last in Knoxville during the 2006 season when the Crimson Tide men finished fifth and the women were seventh.
Action gets underway on Wednesday with the 200 medley relays and 800 freestyle relays as well as the men's 1-meter and women's 3-meter diving events. Prelims get underway at 9:30 a.m. EST while finals start at 6 p.m. The championships conclude Saturday.