Athens, GA - The Georgia Lady Bulldogs won their fifth consecutive Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championship, becoming only the second program in history to repeat five times. This is Georgia's 11th SEC title.
The No. 3 Lady Bulldogs won with a score of 1589, almost 400 points ahead of the second-place Texas A&M Aggies.
The Lady Bulldogs achieved this feat in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,430 at home in Gabrielsen Natatorium. Georgia is the only program to own multiple five-time win streaks. The last time the Lady Bulldogs won five titles consecutively was 1997-2001. Florida won 11 straight from 1986-1996.
"We could not be happier for our young ladies," said Harvey Humphries, Georgia's Senior Associate Head Coach. "This is a team that has so much pride. They set their goals at the beginning of the season, and everything they've done so far has helped them reach this point. We still have a lot of things we want to do as a team, but we're going to let ourselves enjoy this one. This is something these swimmers and divers should be proud of because winning a title in this league isn't easy."
The No. 10 Bulldogs finished in third with a score of 1095. The men's team placed third the last two years, as well. Florida won the 2014 SEC men's race with 1440 points and Auburn was second with 1280.5.
During the five days of the SEC Championships, Georgia swimmers and divers broke 18 school records, 13 pool records and eight SEC records. Freshman Olivia Smoliga was awarded the Commissioner's Trophy for having the highest point total during the meet. She shares this award with Florida's Elizabeth Beisel. Each scored 92 points for their teams. Laura Ryan was named Diver of the Meet for her gold, silver and bronze medal performances this week.
The finals opened with a record-setting swim by Brittany MacLean in the 1,650 freestyle, the longest of the endurance races. MacLean's NCAA automatic qualifying time of 15:40.77 is the fastest time in the nation this year and sets new SEC and Gabrielsen Natatorium records. Amber McDermott also medaled and earned an A cut, finishing second in 15:50.45. These times are personal bests for both MacLean and McDermott and put them second and third all-time in the Georgia record books, respectively. Rachel Zilinskas also posted a personal best time of 15:59.51 to place sixth.
"I have just been having fun all week with my teammates," MacLean said. "They've been really supportive and everyone is motivating everyone to do better. I wanted to keep the momentum rolling tonight so I just went for it. I couldn't be happier with where we're at."
The 100 freestyle was a thriller with a come-from-behind victory by Smoliga. Smoliga's first-place time of 47.51 is the fifth fastest time in the nation this year and the fourth best in Georgia history. Shannon Vreeland finished in a close second with a personal best time of 47.64, also earning an A cut. Maddie Locus also swam a personal best and A-cut time of 47.90 to finish fourth. Chantal Van Landeghem won the consolation final, finishing ninth overall with a time of 48.54. Also scoring for the Lady Bulldogs was Jessica Graber, clocking in at 49.87.
Zilinskas fought her way to the podium in the 200 backstroke, out-touching an Auburn swimmer to place third in 1:52.74. Jordan Mattern touched the wall in 1:54.06, securing the sixth spot. Nicole Vernon finished third in the consolation final and placed 11th overall with a personal best time of 1:55.19.
In the 200 backstroke, Georgia took silver and bronze with swims by Melanie Margalis and Annie Zhu. Margalis swam the second-fastest time in Georgia history, an A-cut time of 2:06.23. This was a personal best for Margalis. Zhu finished in 2:07.01 to place third, also earning an A cut. Shannon O'Malley was eighth, stopping the clock at 2:10.66. Emily Cameron and Olivia Boggs placed fourth and fifth in the consolation final, both with personal best times. Cameron posted a time of 2:10.48 and Boggs clocked in at 2:11.12.
Ryan set a new Georgia, SEC and Gabrielsen Natatorium record of 346.15 in platform diving during prelims on Friday. Ryan won the silver medal in finals with a score of 339.65, falling to Tennessee's Victoria Lamp. Lamp's score of 356.10 broke Ryan's SEC and Gabrielsen Natatorium records set earlier in the day. Ann-Perry Blank finished in fifth place with 287.45 points.
The Lady Bulldogs finished the meet in gold medal fashion as the team of Vreeland, Locus, Van Landeghem and Smoliga swam an A-cut time of 3:11.29 in the 400 freestyle relay. This set a new Gabrielsen Natatorium record and secured the title for Georgia.
"It was a really exciting relay," Vreeland said. "Going into the last day we knew that we pretty much had the meet on lock, but it's always exciting to get out there and swim a really good relay. Everyone put up four fantastic times, and all of them swam before, so it was just really exciting to see."
Opening the night for the Bulldogs was Andrew Gemmell with a bronze medal in the 1,650 freestyle. He stopped the clock at an A-cut time of 14:45.77. Matias Koski touched the wall in a close fourth with a time of 14:45.91, also earning an A cut. Will Freeman finished sixth in 14:54.22, and Garrett Powell secured the seventh spot with a time of 15:02.95.
Doug Reynolds swam a personal best time of 43.12 in the 100 freestyle, placing eighth. Reynolds now owns the second fastest time in Georgia history. Also in the 100 freestyle, Michael Trice finished 16th with a time of 43.93 in the consolation final.
In the 200 backstroke, Ty Stewart took the bronze medal with his time of 1:41.81. Garrett Powell placed seventh in 1:43.88. Jared Markham won the consolation final, clocking in at 1:43.30. Taylor Dale set a new personal best and found his way into the top five in the Georgia record books with a time of 1:43.08. He won the C final and finished 17th overall. Alex Cohen also scored for Georgia, posting a time of 1:45.96.
Nicolas Fink finished a close second in the 200 breaststroke. Fink's time of 1:51.95 was a personal best and broke the previous SEC record, but ultimately it was Anton McKee of Alabama with the top finish of 1:51.59 that will hold the new record. McKee also broke the Gabrielsen Natatorium record.
In the final event of the 2014 SEC Championships, Georgia's 400 freestyle relay team of Reynolds, Fink, Trice and Chase Kalisz broke the Georgia record in 2:53.04. They finished sixth in the event.
The Georgia swimmers and divers will return to action on March 1-2 in Gabrielsen Natatorium for the Bulldog Last Chance Meet. Admission is free.