Tigers Get Three Wins to Open SEC Championships

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
<B>Vennie Dantin</b>

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
Vennie Dantin
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

Feb. 15, 2012

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Auburn senior diver Vennie Dantin won the women's 1-meter championship, and the men's 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay teams captured titles as the 2012 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships got underway Wednesday night at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.

The Auburn men are tied with Tennessee for first place through the first day with 106 points each. LSU and Georgia are tied for third at 73 apiece. Auburn's women are in second place with 101 points, just behind Tennessee, who leads with 118. LSU is third with 74 points and Georgia is in fourth place with 72.

"Amazing start for us tonight," Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. "The divers really set it up for us. We came in with confidence, knowing we were going to be ahead after diving. The relays really did their job; we had some amazing splits."

Dantin earned her second career SEC title, setting new records for both Auburn and Tennessee's facility with a score of 332.40. She led from start to finish, never trailing at the end of any round in either prelims or finals. It was Auburn's third SEC women's diving title under head diving coach Jeff Shaffer and the second by Dantin. It was also the first 1-meter title by an Auburn women's diver since 1990.

"What a great way to get the championship meet started," Auburn head diving coach Jeff Shaffer said. "Vennie came back after a somewhat-missed fifth dive to finish strong and take the title. She showed so much leadership, leading by example. It was an equally strong performance for Anna, improving from her prelims score."

Auburn also advanced two divers to the men's 3-meter finals. Sophomore John Santeiu barely missed the medal stand, earning a fourth-place finish with a season-best score of 386.80. Freshman Fraser McKean took 8th place, scoring a 334.45.

The men's 200 medley relay team got their meet off to a fast start, winning the event for the sixth time in the last seven years. The team of Kyle Owens, Stuart Ferguson, Marcelo Chierighini and Karl Krug posted an NCAA `A' cut time of 1:24.38 to beat Georgia by nearly two seconds. Krug recorded a freestyle split of 18.85 to pull away from the Bulldog team two lanes over.

Auburn closed out the night with a thrilling victory in the men's 800 freestyle relay, only the second time in the last 12 years for the Tigers to win the event. The team of Kyle Owens, James Disney-May, Allen Browning and Zane Grothe posted an NCAA `A' cut time of 6:20.63 to out-touch Florida's team by .23 seconds and earn the win.

Grothe started on the final leg with a lead of less than a tenth of a second, but saw that lead evaporate after 150 yards. At the turn for the final 25 yards, Florida's anchor swimmer appeared to have a head-and-shoulders lead. But Grothe found an extra gear in the last five yards and overtook his Gator counterpart for a huge win.

"I'm so proud of the fight we showed in the 800 free relay," Hawke said. "It just speaks to the character of this team and how much they want it."

The women's 200 medley relay team earned a runner-up finish with an NCAA `A' cut time of 1:36.47 from Emily Bos, Lauren Norberg, Olivia Scott and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace. Vanderpool-Wallace made some history with her freestyle leg; her split of 20.80 seconds was the fastest 50-yard split ever posted by a women's swimmer at any level.

"Arianna is the first female in history to split 20, that's huge," Hawke said. "She blazed past 21 (seconds); that was awesome. It's just a matter of getting into the meet for these girls; we started well."

Auburn's women took fourth place in the 800 freestyle relay as Katie Gardocki, Becca Jones, Megan Fonteno and Scott posted a time of 7:06.47.

Day two of the SEC Championships get underway at 9 a.m. CT Thursday with preliminaries in the 500 freestyle, 200 IM and 50 freestyle, followed by men's 1-meter and women's 3-meter diving prelims in the afternoon. Live stats and live video are available through UTSports.com, and fans can follow a live blog at AuburnTigers.com or @AuburnSwimming on Twitter for updates throughout the meet.

Auburn Swimming & Diving Results
2012 SEC Championships - Day 1 Finals
Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatics Center - Knoxville, Tenn.
February 15, 2012

Men's Team Scores: Auburn 106, Tennessee 106, LSU 73, Georgia 73, Kentucky 71, Florida 67, South Carolina 63, Alabama 24

Women's Team Scores: Tennessee 118, Auburn 101, LSU 74, Georgia 72, South Carolina 67, Florida 66, Arkansas 59, Alabama 58, Vanderbilt 32, Kentucky 30.

Auburn Top Finishers - Men: 200 Medley Relay: 1. Owens, Ferguson, Chierighini, Krug (1:24.38); 3-Meter Diving: 4. Santeiu (386.80); 800 Freestyle Relay: 1. Owens, Disney-May, Browning, Grothe (6:20.63)

Auburn Top Finishers - Women: 1-Meter Diving: 1. Dantin (332.40); 200 Medley Relay: 2. Bos, La. Norberg, Scott, Vanderpool-Wallace (1:36.47); 800 Freestyle Relay: 4. Gardocki, Jones, Fonteno, Scott (7:06.47).

Notes:
-Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace becomes the first woman in history to go sub-21 in a 50-yard swim.
-Auburn's men's 200 medley relay win was its sixth in the last seven years; a five-year winning streak was snapped last year.
-Vennie Dantin becomes the second Auburn women's diver to win a 1-meter SEC title; the other two were won by Marina Smith in 1989 and 1990.
-The 800 freestyle relay win by the men was just the second by an Auburn team in the last 12 years. Auburn last won that race in 2009.
-Auburn's men and women combined for three NCAA automatic qualifying times in Wednesday's action. The Tigers now have a combined five so far this season.
-Katie Gardocki's split of 1:46.77 is Auburn's fastest women's 200 freestyle swim this season and also a personal record for Gardocki. In addition, Kyle Owens' leadoff 1:36.12 is the fastest men's 200 free swim by a Tiger this year.