ATHENS, Ga. - The Tennessee Lady Volunteer swimming team poured in additional 24 points during the final session of the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships to claim a 12th-place finish with a total of 104, as the meet concluded Saturday evening. The highest scoring output since 1997 lifted the Big Orange to its best showing in eight years when it snared 11th.
The capacity to score in four different events during the session, only the 1989 squad has also pulled off that feat, powered Tennessee's drive to matching its fifth-best result in 25 years of competition at the NCAA Championships, and it displays the strides the Lady Vols have made under their first-year coaching staff, consisting of Matt Kredich and Jennifer Arndt.
"The leadership on the team was outstanding, and the ladies responded to every challenge all year long," said Kredich. "I believe in a lot of ways the team overachieved, and a whole lot of tribute should be given to everyone involved.
"If we had set a goal of being in the top 12 at the beginning of the year, we would have thought it was a big stretch," said Kredich. "It is a big step for the program to know that we can be competitive on a national level and to have individuals and relays vie for national championships. The most important thing we come away from this meet with is the idea that Tennessee will always have a major impact at the national championships. It is a great foundation to build off of for the future."
The evening commenced with the consolation final of 200y backstroke, and it would be an entertaining affair as the top-three finishers were separated by a mere .06 seconds. Jacque Fessel (Cincinnati, Ohio) churned out the fourth-fastest time in program history, 1:56.80, to claim 11th and its allotted six points.
It is the senior's second top-16 showing in the event during her time at Rocky Top, making her the only Lady Vol in history to accomplish the feat. During the 2006 national meet, she also scored in the 100y back, making her the lone orange-clad swimmer in program history to have tallied points in both distances in the same year on two occasions.
Christine Magnuson (Tinley Park, Ill.) then hit the water for the 100y freestyle. The sophomore checked in with the second-fastest time in UT history, 49.43, to claim 14th place and add three points to the Big Orange scoring column.
The result is the third-best ever showing by a Tennessee swimmer in the event and marks the initial time since Nicole deMan's national championship in 1996 that a Lady Vol has finished in the money. Coincidentally, Magnuson erased the former All-American's school record (49.73) during the preliminary session with a blistering 49.22.
In the 200y breaststroke, Tiffany Clay (Mason, Ohio), who earlier in the day toppled the school standard in the event, once again brought the orange-clad faithful to its feet with a historic performance. The junior swam free and easy en route to rewriting the record books with a blistering lifetime-best readout of 2:14.11. More importantly, she claimed 12th place and a crucial five points for Team Orange.
With the result, Clay becomes the first Lady Vol to score in the event since the 1989 national meet. Making the performance even more remarkable is that Clay entered the NCAAs seeded 31st. Moreover, it is the first top-16 finish in an individual event of her career.
The final event of the evening was the 400y freestyle relay, and the quartet of Carly Mathes (Kettering, Ohio), Magnuson, Elizabeth Christy (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Megan Tomes (Cincinnati, Ohio) capped off the meet for Team Orange in fine fashion. UT charted the third-fastest readout in program history, 3:21.06, to notch 12th place and the rewarded 10 points.
The NCAA Championship served as the fitting culmination to the campaign in what has been a rebirth onto the national scene for the Orange and White, keyed by Kredich and Arndt. Most notable is the Lady Vols' point total (104), which ranks as the sixth-highest output in school history at the meet.
Tennessee tallied points in 11 different events (100y back, 100y free, 200y back, 200y free, 200y breast, 200y IM and all five relays) which is the highest amount since 1997. That figure equals the fourth-highest all time by the Lady Vols.
There were a number of events where the Big Orange had athletes earn points for the first time in a several years. UT claimed a top-16 finish in these events; (last time scored in parenthesis) (100y breaststroke (1989), 200y freestyle (1992), 100y freestyle (1996), 200y FR (1996), 400y FR (1996) and 200y MR (1998).
In total, Lady Vol swimmers brought home 12 top-16 finishes, the most since 1997 as well. To truly appreciate that number, consider that in the past five meets combined UT swimmers managed only 11 top-16 outcomes.
All eight Lady Vols garnered All-America honors, accounting for a total of 27 certificates. It marks the most snagged by Tennessee since 1996 and ranks as the fourth-highest figure in the Orange and White's 25 years of competition at the national meet.
Fessel concludes her outstanding career at Rocky Top with 14 All-America certificates and as the school record holder in the 100 and 200y backstroke. Terveer, meanwhile, broke through to the national meet when it mattered most, and by swimming with the 200y freestyle relay which claimed 13th, leaves town as an All-American.
With six of the eight UT NCAA qualifiers returning next year, combined with a savvy group of veterans and an influx of talent from a stellar recruiting class, the Big Orange is poised for another incredible season in 2006-07.
TENNESSEE POINT SCORERS
24- 800y Freestyle Relay
22- 400y Medley Relay
11- Megan Tomes
10- 400y Freestyle Relay
8- 200y Freestyle Relay
8- Christine Magnuson
7- Jacque Fessel
6- 200y Medley Relay
5- Tiffany Clay
3- Carly Mathes