Feb. 18, 2012
By Todd Mounce, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee Lady Vol swimming & diving team won't soon forget the 2012 Southeastern Conference Swimming & Diving Championships, as the squad put on its best showing in over 20 years to claim second in its home pool at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.
The Big Orange finished the four-day league meet with a tally of 629.5 points, only behind the Lady Bulldogs of Georgia, who accumulated a score of 721. The last time Tennessee placed as high as second and scored as many points came in 1990, when the team registered a score of722.0 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"Last night was such a high for our team and we came back this morning and weren't very tough," Lady Vol head coach Matt Kredich said. "At the end of the morning session I challenged our team to come back to who they really are and tonight they were phenomenal. It was a great series of performances."
Over the course of the four-day meet, the Lady Vols won seven events, placed runner-up on five occasions and tallied six third-place finishes. Senior Jenny Connolly scored the third most points of any women's swimmer at the meet, accounting for 53.5 points.
For the second time while at the helm of the Lady Vol program, Kredich was named the SEC Women's Coach of the Year, as he shared the honor with Florida's Gregg Troy in 2008.
Junior Kelsey Floyd avenged her second-place finish a year ago in the 200y fly, claiming the event crown in 1:54.65. Last season, Florida's Teresa Crippen edged Floyd by 0.22 seconds for the win at the conference championships in Gainesville. Saturday, Floyd bettered Crippen by over a half of a second.
"After last year when I came into the event in first (prelims), but ended getting second, I wanted to be more relaxed and swim my own race," Floyd said. "Honestly, what was going through my head was, I will not lose this race again. I just wanted to get my hand on the wall and finish harder than everyone else. That is what I did and it was great."
"Kelsey learns from her mistakes," Kredich said. "She made a few mistakes in that race last year. She takes losing hard and is a great competitor. Instead of beating herself up, she really analyzed that race and the mistakes that she made, one of which was swimming to not lose. So instead of swimming not lose, tonight she swam to win. She was competing against one of the best in the world, so that meant a lot to her to win."
Competing in her first SEC Championships this week, Tori Lamp ended the meet on a high note, scoring 335.50 on the towers to set an SEC and Lady Vol record.
Heading into the final round, Auburn's Vennie Dantin had a two-point advantage on Lamp and scored 76.80 on her final dive in the fifth round. Cool and collected, the redshirt sophomore accumulated a score of 86.40 to claim the platform title in thrilling fashion.
"She went into the final round two points down and a lot of credit should go to Vennie, who did some great stuff to put the pressure on Tori," Tennessee head diving coach Dave Parrington said. "Tori was in a position where she had to do a phenomenal dive on her last dive. She was very comfortable and calm with a lot of drama building up in that final moment. That was a great way to end what has been an incredible week for us diving. It has been really exciting."
"To be able to get up on the platform and do that dive was awesome," Lamp said. "I was just really thinking I had to trust myself and finish the dive."
A native of Knoxville, Lamp was chosen as the SEC Female Diver of the Year for her efforts. Along with winning the platform, she placed second on both the 1- and 3-meter boards at the conference championships.
Parrington was tabbed the Diving Coach of the Year on both the men's and women's side, as Tennessee won four of the six diving events over the course of the league meet between the men and women.
Teammate Gabrielle Trudeau joined Lamp on the podium after the platform event, claiming third with a career-best score of 289.10. This week, the Lady Vol divers never finished below 11th in any three of the events.
"Our divers were just amazing," Kredich said. "I can't say enough about the work Dave Parrington has done to get them prepared. The way Tori hit that last dive; that now is officially a Lady Vol legend. That dive was just incredible."
Lindsay Gendron became the fourth-fastest Lady Vol ever to swim the 1,650 free, as the sophomore finished with a readout of 16:01.38 to grab second. In the process, she also broke the 1,000y free record with a split time of 9:37.36.
In the 200y back, sophomore Kate McNeilis finished 10 spots better than she did a year ago in the event by placing fourth. The Dublin, Ohio native's clocking of 1:54.26 broke the Lady Vol record that stood for three years.
"Kate McNeilis has had a phenomenal meet," Kredich explained. "She is a great example for our team because she was pretty frustrated at this meet a year ago in her performances. She was one of our best this season."
A transfer from Buffalo and a two-time Mid-American Conference champion in the 100y free, Caroline Simmons was UT's top finisher in the event after placing sixth. She touched in at 49.10 seconds, which is good for fourth on the performers list, as she has only competed in the event twice this season prior to Saturday.
Senior Kirstyn Colonias advanced to her first championship final as a Lady Vol, notching seventh in the 200y breast after a time of 2:12.16.
The day and league meet ended with the 400y free relay, an event in which the Big Orange notched third in for the second consecutive season. Consisting of Connolly, Floyd, Simmons and Gendron, the foursome was a mere .02 seconds from tying a school record, registering a readout of 3:15.09.
Three Lady Vols won consolation finals to place ninth overall in their respective events. Lauren Solernou had a time of 1:55.25 in the 200y back, Molly Hannis touched in at 2:12.01 in the 200y breast and Brooke Watson recorded a 200y fly mark of 1:59.67.
"It feels good to have our program finishing in the top three in the SEC," Kredich said. "That's what we recruit people to come to Tennessee to do. We want to compete for championships. We're in a place now where we can compete for championships and we will keep doing that."
Tennessee swimmers will have one more chance to improve their times prior to the NCAA Championships, as the squad travels to Athens, Ga., for the Last Chance Meet that begins Saturday.