Feb. 17, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
ATHENS, Ga. - Leading up to the first day of competition at the 2010 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships, Tennessee's Michele King, Alex Barsanti, Jenny Connolly and Kelsey Floyd talked about taking home gold medals in the 200y medley relay.
On Wednesday night, the four Lady Vols backed up their talk by clocking the fastest 200y MR time in the country this year en route to capturing the conference title in the event at the Gabrielsen Natatorium.
"We've been talking about it since last night," said Barsanti, a senior. "All day today we told each other we weren't coming home without some hardware. We went in with a lot of confidence. We knew what we wanted to do, and we did it."
Barsanti's blistering second leg propelled 13th-ranked Tennessee to an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:37.32, and past meet-favorites Georgia (1:37.64) and Florida (1:37.90) in the first swimming event of the meet.
After Connolly, a sophomore, stayed close behind Florida's Gemma Spofforth in the lead-off backstroke leg, Barsanti exploded from the blocks to give UT the lead with her breaststroke performance. Floyd, a four-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection, held off a strong push from Georgia in the butterfly, and King, a senior, brought the relay title home in the final freestyle push.
"We had four really solid legs," Lady Vol head coach Matt Kredich said. "Everybody did their part. Alex was the difference-maker. After Jenny kept us close, Alex's start and pull-out launched us to the front. Kelsey hung in there and left it for Michele to finish. And there's nobody I'd rather have than Michele at the end of a relay."
The Lady Vols head into Thursday in fourth place with 77 points, but just 18 points behind co-leaders Georgia and Florida (95). Auburn sits third with 91 points, while Alabama is fifth with 72 points.
The win gives the Lady Vols' 40 SEC event championships and six conference relay titles all-time. It's also UT's second 200 medley relay crown ever. Tennessee previously won the event in 1987.
King stood atop the podium for the third straight year, adding the 200y medley gold to her first-place hardware from the 50y free in 2009 and the 200y free relay in 2008. She still has plenty of chances to add to her awards total this week, too. She is scheduled to compete in an individual event and a relay every day for the rest of the meet.
For Barsanti, Connolly and Floyd, it's their first SEC title each.
About an hour after Tennessee's victory in the 200y MR, UT hopped back in the pool and finished fifth in the 800y free relay in a season-best time of 7:16.00.
Floyd led off the relay with a season-best 200y free split time of 1:47.29, making her the third-fastest Lady Vol ever in the event. Juniors Aleksa Akerfelds and Tricia Weaner and sophomore Caitlin Perks joined the freshman phenom in the event.
"Tonight gives us a lot to build off of, and a lot of confidence heading in to tomorrow," Kredich said.
Earlier in the afternoon, Tennessee sophomore diver Gabrielle Trudeau nearly qualified for the finals in the 1-meter diving competition, finishing 11th in the prelims with a score of 284.10, only 2.5 points out of the qualifying for the finals.
"Gabbi put up a really good score and was just a few points away from moving on," UT head diving coach Dave Parrington said. "She just came up a few points short in a really tough event. I had higher expectations for Jodie. She'll have to bounce back tomorrow.
Joining Trudeau as a point-scorer on the first springboard event of the meet was classmate Jodie McGroarty. The Sheffield, England, native placed 14th with a score of 252.00. The top 16 placers scored in the event.
Thursday's prelims begin at 10 a.m., while finals start at 6 p.m. Live results and live video of the 2010 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships can be found at georgiadogs.com.