Feb. 20, 2008
SEC Championship Meet Central
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Auburn swimming and diving team wasted no time getting thing started Wednesday in the opening day of the SEC Championships as the 800 freestyle relay team of Ava Ohlgren, Caitlin Geary Melissa Marik and Emily Kukors set a new American record.
After the first day of competition, Auburn's men are in first place with 126 points, followed by Tennessee in second with 86. Auburn's women are in sixth place with 74 points, but are only 15 points behind first-place Florida (89).
For the women, the excitement came in their final event of the opening session with the 800 free relay. Sophomore Ava Ohlgren led off the relay, setting a new Auburn record in the 200 free with a time of 1:43.68. She breaks the record of 1:43.72, set by Emily Kukors, who swam anchor on the relay, at the 2007 NCAA Championships.
Auburn was in second place after Ohlgren's leadoff leg, trailing Tennessee following a SEC-record swim by Christine Magnuson (1:43.00).
"I led off last year against Christine Magnuson, I feel like we race well together," said Ohlgren. "The last 50 I had, my legs were shot and I thought I was going so slow. When I found out I went 1:43.60, I was really excited because that was my best time by more than a second."
The Tigers took the lead on the second leg, swam by freshman Caitlin Geary, as she posted a 1:43.85 split - the fastest second leg of the race by more than a second.
"I really just went out and swam as hard as I could, as fast as I could and I had no idea I was going that fast, but I loved racing and getting ahead for our team," said Geary. "Just actually being on the relay for me was something really special. To be on a relay for the best team in the nation is something that you dream about."
Melissa Marik went out third for Auburn and maintained Geary's lead with a 1:45.51 split, the second-fastest in her leg.
"I just wanted to do the best I can," said Marik. "I didn't really know what to expect and I was really glad that Caitlin got that lead because it was really nice to swim in front. I jumped in and just went for it."
Wrapping up the relay was Kukors, a senior and co-team captain. She swam a 1:44.24 split, the fastest anchor split in the race, to come in for the win and the record.
"I didn't know where we were as far as time, but I knew for us it was just going to be a race against the clock," said Kukors. "Ava, Caitlin and Melissa did a great job of preparing me to just take care of business."
Auburn won by more than six second with the time of 6:57.28, a mark that sets new Auburn, SEC, pool, U.S. Open and American records. It is also the first American record coached by co-head women's coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker.
"The 800 free relay team getting an American record, what can you say? I thought all four ladies swam smart and took advantage of a wonderful opportunity tonight," said Tierney-Walker. "I'm thrilled for them, absolutely thrilled for them - especially the senior on that relay, Emily Kukors."
The time breaks the they break the American record of 7:00.89, previously held by Dana Vollmer, Emily Silver, Blake Hayter and Erin Reilly. It also breaks the U.S. Open and SEC record held by Florida's Maureen Farrell, Carolina Burckle, Mareetta Uhle and Leah Retrum (7:00.25).
In the other women's event for the opening night, Auburn finished second in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:38.00, a NCAA automatic qualifying time. The team of Margo McCawley, Kara Denby, Alana Dillette and Emile Ewing finished second to Florida in the race. The Gators set a new SEC record with a time of 1:37.23.
"I'm really proud of our 200 medley relay team; Margo McCawley leading off at 24.6 was a fantastic leadoff leg," said Tierney-Walker. "We had a couple individuals that had never been on that relay before, trying out some new positions, and I thought they did a wonderful job."
The men's team finds itself in a good position following the first day of competition with a 40-point lead over its nearest competitor.
The Tigers opened with a win in the 200 medley relay, posting an "A" cut time of 1:24.81 to win by more than a second over Tennessee (1:26.07).
The team of Scott Goodrich, Michael Silva, Alexei Puninski and Cesar Cielo swam their fastest time of the season while setting a new pool record. The team came within a quarter of a second of the SEC record, set by Auburn last year.
Cielo, the NCAA and U.S. Open record holder in the 50 free with a time of 18.69, swam an anchor freestyle split of 18.53 to give Auburn the win.
The swimmers followed up the win with a third-place showing in the 800 free relay. The team of Tyler McGill, Pascal Wollach, Steve Scheren and Will Dove finished with a time of 6:26.10, missing the "A" cut by two hundredths of a second.
The time is the fastest of the season for Auburn, besting the 6:39.07 swam at the U.S. Short Course Championships by almost 13 seconds.
"We obviously got off to a real good start in the 200 medley relay and the diving, they just did an outstanding job," said head coach Richard Quick. "Honestly, the third place in the 800 free relay is the best we can do and if we can do the best we can do and maximize our opportunities, then you feel good about it."
Helping out the swimmers were the Auburn divers as four Tigers scored in the top 10 on the 3-meter springboard.
Sophomore Kelly Marx led the way with a 414.55, finishing second. Dan Mazzaferro was not far behind as he came in fourth with a score of 390.75.
Caleb Dunnichay and Scott Morgan rounded out the Auburn representation, finishing sixth and ninth, respectively. Dunnichay posted a score of 366.15 while Morgan came in at 337.45.
Morgan's score is his best ever at SECs while Marx, Mazzaferro and Dunnichay all posted career-bests.
"That was Kelly's first time over 400 and Dan was right there behind him," said head diving coach Jeff Shaffer. "Caleb did a great job of putting six dives together and that is very encouraging. We just hope this all carries over to tomorrow."
For Quick, he is very happy with his team's position but is very aware of the work and goals ahead.
"I think we have entered in a real good position and obviously we like the score, but there is a lot more swimming left - we are just getting started," said Quick. "I thought we pretty well performed the way I thought we could. We are here to qualify people for the NCAAs and prepare for that meet, but also trying to get a win this week, so I'm pleased with the steps we are taking."
Action continues at the SEC Championships on Thursday with the men's 1-meter diving, women's 3-meter diving, 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and 200 free relay.
Preliminaries are set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Alabama Aquatics Center, with diving prelims beginning at 12:30 P.M. Finals in Thursday's events will begin at 6 p.m.
Fans that cannot make it the SEC Championships can follow the action live with the SEC Championship Blog and live stats at www.RollTide.com.