Feb. 19, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. - It was another Southeastern Conference Swimming & Diving Championship and another tie in the 50y free for junior Michele King. This time, however, instead of tying for fourth, the Lady Vol freestyler claimed her first SEC individual title on Thursday night at the James E. Martin Aquatic Center.
King and Georgia junior Anne-Marie Botek finished dead even at the end of the "splash and dash" in 21.90. Their time was just off of King's prelim finish of 21.89.
"I'm getting sick of tying," King said with a laugh. "I would've liked to have gone faster today, but I'm happy. I was very anxious to swim because this is my first time seeded first, and it was a little intimidating. To bring a championship to Tennessee is what I wanted."
The York, Pa., native tied for fourth in the event at the 2008 SEC Championships, while finishing tied for third in the 100y free at the same meet. Additionally, King shared the 50m title at the 2008 U.S. Open this summer.
Her performance is the highlight of the meet so far for the Lady Vols, who sit in fourth-place with 155.5 points after two days of competition. Florida leads the meet with 312 points. The Gators are followed by Georgia (260.5) and Auburn (254). South Carolina (131), Alabama (120), Arkansas (115) and Kentucky (105) are all within striking distance of Tennessee.
King became the fourth Lady Vol - and second in a row - to capture the 50y free title. Last season, Christine Magnuson won the title with a time of 22.03. Nicole deMan won back-to-back titles in 1995-96 and Karla Driesler tied Florida's Dara Torres for the title in 1986. King claimed the 20th SEC individual swimming title overall for the Lady Vols.
King's prelim time of 21.89 ranks her third in the country. Both of her times automatically qualify her for the 2009 NCAA Championships.
"It's great to win an SEC title whether you tie or do it outright," Lady Vol head swimming coach Matt Kredich said. "Michele (King) had some impressive swims today. It's the third year in a row that we've won an individual title, and we hope to win many more."
The 50y free deadlock was just the third time a title was shared in SEC Championship history. The other two championship ties came in 1986 as Driesler and Torres tied in the 50y free and LSU's Paige Busch and Georgia's Lisa Geiger split the 100y breast.
Freshman diver Jodie McGroarty wrapped up her first-ever SEC Championship meet by adding a fourth-place finish on the 1-meter board to her third-place performance on the 3-meter on Wednesday night. The Sheffield, England, native scored a season-best 302.40, which is an NCAA Zone qualifying mark and makes her the fifth-best performer in Lady Vol history in the event.
"I'm very happy with Jodie's performances," UT diving coach Dave Parrington said. "For her to get career-bests in both events and not be intimidated at this meet is very impressive as a freshman. There's a lot more to come from her."
She tallied a score of 293.20 in the prelims to qualify sixth to the finals.
South Carolina sophomore Taryn Zack won the event with a score of 325.90.
Tennessee ended the night on a high note by nearly breaking the UT record in the 200y free relay. The team of King, senior Brittany Nauta and freshmen Jenny Connolly and Abbie Alton finished fourth in a season-best and NCAA 'B' qualifying time of 1:29.19. The performance was the Lady Vols' second-best of all-time - just off the 1:29.07 readout recorded by King, Nauta, Magnuson and senior Carly Mathes at the 2008 SEC Championships.
The 200y free relays of Florida, Auburn and Georgia each set pool and SEC records with the Gators touching first in 1:28.15.
Sophomore Aleksa Akerfelds placed seventh in the 500y free in a time of 4:44.87. Earlier in the day during prelims, Akerfelds tied her own UT-record of 4:42.91 to qualify in the eighth position for the finals.
Georgia finished 1-2-3 in the event with freshman Allison Schmitt leading the way in 4:37.90.
Alton placed 16th in the 50y free with a time of 22.87. She made it to the consolation finals by clocking a time of 22.86 in the prelims.
"We had some great swims tonight," Kredich said. "We really competed - especially in that last relay. In the 200y free relay, Jenny (Connolly) had a great start and Abbie (Alton) had a great leg. Michele (King) and Brittany (Nauta) also had great legs, and we were just off the school record. I think we set ourselves up great for tomorrow where we will have a lot of athletes in a lot of races."
The Lady Vols hop back in the pool for prelims at 10 a.m. on Friday with finals starting 6 p.m. Friday's events include the 400y IM, 100y fly, 200y free, 100y breast, 100y back, women's platform and the 400y medley relay.
Live results can be found at www.auburntigers.com.