Feb. 20, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
ATHENS, Ga. - A pair of third-place finishes from sophomore Samara Gelb and junior Aleksa Akerfelds on Saturday night helped pace the 13th-ranked Tennessee women's swimming and diving team to its highest point output in over a decade, and its third straight fourth-place finish at the 2010 SEC Championships.
Gelb broke the UT record with her bronze medal performance in the 200y breast (2:10.34), while Akerfelds nabbed third in the 1650y free (16:02.78), as the Lady Vols tallied 497 points - their most since scoring 501.5 in 1997 - at the Gabrielsen Natatorium.
The meet kicked off with Tennessee capturing the 200y medley relay conference title on Wednesday and was highlighted by senior Michele King's repeat victory in the 50y free the next day.
Lady Vol head coach Matt Kredich's three straight fourth-place finishes is a feat that has only happened twice before in Tennessee history: 1988-92 and 1995-97.
The Big Orange will now turn its attention to the NCAA Championships from March 18-20 in West Lafayette, Ind. Kredich expects at least 10 Lady Vols to qualify for the national meet based off their SEC performances and hopes more can earn invites at next weekend's Last Chance Meet in Knoxville, Tenn.
"I love how aggressive we raced this whole weekend," Kredich said. "It was just a really solid effort tonight, all the way through the weekend. This is one of the best meets we've ever put together. I'm proud of the team. We've got a lot to build off of for NCAAs. Our plan is to get faster. In three-and-half weeks, we have a great chance of swimming a lot faster.
"Tonight was another really good night for us. We had some brilliant racing, in particular Sam Gelb's 200 breaststroke. I'm also really proud of Aleksa's swim in the mile. She was out of the water for five months rehabilitating after shoulder surgery. And the way she's come back this season has been incredible - especially tonight."
No. 1 Georgia won its seventh SEC Championship, scoring 824.5 points at its home site. No. 6 Florida was second (698), while Auburn was third (568). Alabama placed fifth (272) and No. 19 Arkansas was sixth (262.5).
Akerfelds kicked off the final session of the 2010 SEC Championships in style, snagging the second bronze medal in the 1650y free of her career. Her time is a season-best and a B-cut. It's the second fastest mile performance ever by a Lady Vol, just off Akerfeld's own UT record (16:00.11) set while earning her first bronze in the event at the 2008 conference meet.
Gelb stole the show for Tennessee on Saturday night with podium finish and a school record in the 200y breast.
"I definitely didn't expect it at all," Gelb said. "I couldn't have done it without the whole team cheering me on throughout the whole race. My plan was to stay relaxed and swim my own race. I couldn't really tell where I was, but I could hear my team cheering and that really pushed me at the end of the race."
Gelb's finals performance broke senior Alex Barsanti's year-old UT mark of 2:11.14. It also led another stellar breaststroke performance from the Orange and White. A day after placing two on the podium - and four in the top-six - in the 100y breast, Tennessee placed four in the top-nine of the 200y breast. Junior Martina Moravcikova (2:13.08) and Barsanti (2:13.60) finished 5-6 for the second straight year, while senior Jamie Saffer won the consolation final with a season-best readout of 2:13.50. All four times were B-cuts.
Floyd (1:55.92) and Weaner (1:56.05) finished 5-6 in the 200y back. Later in the evening, Floyd came back to take seventh in the 200y fly (1:58.78), while Weaner returned to take 13th in the event in a season-best 2:00.16. All of the duo's performances were B-cuts.
Sophomore Jenny Connolly, two-time SEC runner-up in the 100y back, captured the 200y back consolation final in a season-best B-cut mark of 1:55.84 to place ninth.
King also wrapped up her final conference meet with her second consecutive fourth-place finish in the 100y free, touching in 48.81, a season-best and a B-cut.
The York, Pa., native was part of the 40th and 41st SEC event championships in UT history. Joined by Floyd, Connolly and Barsanti, she anchored the victorious 200y MR and won the 50y free.
Three Lady Vol divers wrapped up the conference meet by scoring in the platform event during the morning session, as well.
Sophomore Gabbi Trudeau, an All-American on the tower in 2009, struggled on her first dive and wound up 10th with a score of 231.55, just missing the eight-person final. Junior Jill Pierce finished 14th (206.35), while freshman Skye Sanders was 16th (198.70). Both scores were season-bests.
"I'm really proud of Jill and Skye for getting points on the platform today," UT diving coach Dave Parrington. "There was a quality field today and they got their jobs done. Gabbi came out a little too excited and was playing catch-up the rest of the way. I'm disappointed for here, but she battled hard."
|Lady Vol Medal Count|
|Gold||Michele King||50y free||22.06|
|Gold||Connolly, Barsanti, Floyd, King||200y medley relay||1:37.32|
|Silver||Alex Barsanti||100 breast||59.97|
|Silver||Jenny Connolly||100 back||52.24|
|Bronze||Aleksa Akerfelds||1650 free||16:02.78|
|Bronze||Breanna Folk||100 breast||1:00.30|
|Bronze||Samara Gelb||200 breast||2:10.34*|