Jan. 26, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After winning four events in a narrow loss to No. 1 Georgia at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center on Saturday, including the 100y breast in record-breaking fashion, junior swimmer Jamie Saffer was named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week.
Saffer won the 100y breast by over two seconds in 59.42, the fastest time ever in a dual meet for the event in NCAA history. The performance breaks the old dual-meet record of 59.48 set by USC's Rebecca Soni against Arizona on Nov. 14, 2008, in Los Angeles. The readout also made her the eighth-fastest performer ever in the event, shattered the Tennessee record and achieved UT's first NCAA 'A' cut of the season. She has now automatically qualified for the 2009 NCAA Championships in her signature event. Fellow junior Michele King set the old school record of 1:00.46 at the 2008 SEC Championships in Alabama.
The Roswell, Ga., native began the day on the winning 200y medley relay, the meet's first event, which finished in a season-best and NCAA 'B' time of 1:39.65. The relay win set the tone for the rest of the meet as the 10th-ranked Lady Vols battled for the lead with the top-ranked Bulldogs until the final event. Georgia barely escaped with a 158-142 win.
Along the way, Saffer did everything she could to keep Tennessee's upset hopes alive. In addition to her leg on the 200y medley relay and her spectacular 100y breast, Saffer also captured first in the 200y breast (2:12.68) and the 200y IM (1:59.27) - both in NCAA 'B' cut and career-best times. Both performances make her the second-fastest Lady Vol ever in those events.
Heading into last Saturday's showdown with Georgia, Saffer held career-best times of 1:01.14 in the 100y breast, 2:14.29 in the 200y breast, and 2:03.99 in the 200y IM, but she obliterated each at the final regular season meet of the season at the AJIAC. With SECs looming in February and the NCAA Championships coming in March, Saffer will have plenty of opportunities to lower those marks, as well.
She currently ranks third in the country behind Minnesota's Jillian Tyler (58.80) and Georgia's Mhyria Miller (59.18) in the 100y breast so she should be in the hunt for a national title. Miller finished fourth in the 100y breast on Saturday.
Saffer finished 13th in the 100y breast at NCAAs last season to earn All-America honors. She is the second UT swimmer to win the Lady Vol AOW award this season. King won the award on Jan. 12 after grabbing six first-place finishes in the quad-meet win over Indiana, Michigan and Illinois in Bloomington, Ind.
Saffer and the rest of the Lady Vol swimming and diving team will close out the regular season this Friday when it faces No. 6 Florida in Gainesville.