Feb. 11, 2012
The Tennessee Lady Vols are hosting the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships for the fifth time in program history beginning Feb. 15 at Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. In the four days leading up to the meet, here is a summary of the previous championships in Knoxville, beginning with 1986.
The Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships first came to Knoxville in 1968, with the construction of Student Aquatics Center being completed a year earlier. Flash-forward 18 years and three SEC meets at the facility in the books; the Lady Vols first got their chance to compete in the league meet at home in 1986.
Since its inception in 1971, the UT women's swimming & diving program had no SEC Championships to take part in until 1981, when the inaugural event was hosted in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Heading into the '86 championships, Florida had been victorious in four of the first five conference championships, with Alabama claiming the other league title in 1985.
A young Big Orange squad that consisted of five juniors, seven sophomore and eight freshmen had the task of improving from a fifth-place finish a year prior. During the first five years of the women's championships, UT had not placed higher than fourth.
The SEC proved to be one of the toughest conferences in the country, as a squad who finished fourth or fifth at the league meet, usually notched in a Top 20 finish at NCAAs. From 1982-195, the SEC had at least two teams finish among the Top 10 all four years, a national champion in Florida and appeared 13 times among the Top 10 finishers in the competition.
Swimming and diving in its home waters against fierce completion, Tennessee dropped one spot to sixth at the conclusion of the meet.
Karla Driesler's effort in the 50y free was the highlight for UT, as she tied Olympic Gold Medalist Dara Torres of Florida for first place in the event after touching in at 23.48 seconds. The only other top-three finish for the Lady Vols came by way of Wendy Gwaltney claiming runner-up with a time of 2:05.11 in the 200y back.
Florida went on to win the meet and the next 10 SEC Championships after, scoring 935 points. Tennessee finished with a tally of 317.5 points.
1986 SEC Championships Final Standings
1. Florida 935
2. Georgia 563.5
3. Alabama 518
4. LSU 468
5. Auburn 429
6. TENNESSEE 317.5
7. Kentucky 138
8. Vanderbilt 113