Feb. 21, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Auburn men's swimming and diving team is currently in first place at the 2008 SEC Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after earning three championships on Thursday.
The women's team moved to second place after finishing the first day in sixth. The Tigers have 230 points and trail Florida (272) with two days left in the meet. Auburn's men finished the day with 322 points, distancing itself from Florida, its nearest competitor with 233 points.
"We feel good about where we are right now," said head coach Richard Quick. "Tomorrow morning's preliminaries will be critical to our success and how the meet works out. On paper, tomorrow should be our best day, but we have got to step up tomorrow and win the preliminaries."
The men's team scored almost 200 points on Thursday, opening the day with a win on the 1-meter springboard. Kelly Marx earned his first SEC title, scoring a 352.20 to take the win. Auburn has won back-to-back 1-meter titles with the win with six championships all-time.
"That was a great win for Kelly," said head diving coach Jeff Shaffer. "When you minimize your mistakes, you maximize your opportunity and you will be successful and that is really how that contest played out."
Dan Mazzaferro gave Auburn two top-five finishers as he scored a 335.05 to place fourth.
Auburn sprinters followed up with a strong showing in the 50 free, led by junior Cesar Cielo as he won his third-straight SEC title in the event, touching in at 18.91. Cielo broke his own SEC record of 19.02 and is the first swimmer to break 19 seconds at the SEC Championships.
The win is the sixth in a row for Auburn in the 50 free and the 12th of the last 14 years.
Right behind Cielo was senior Alexei Puninski as he touched in with a time of 19.42, one hundredth of a second off his personal best. Scott Goodrich followed in fifth (19.94) while Steve Scheren rounded out the group in eighth (20.16). Cielo and Puninski both posted NCAA automatic times while Goodrich and Scheren came in with "B" cuts.
Cielo then turned around and led off Auburn's winning 200 free relay team. Every member of the team swam their split in less than 20 seconds as the Tigers finished with an "A" cut time of 1:16.92 to take the win.
Cielo led with an 18.93 split, followed by Puninski at 19.02. Goodrich kept the team going with a 19.57 and Scheren brought the win home with a 19.37 split.
Other events on the schedule for Auburn included the 500 free and the 200 IM. Sophomore Will Dove led the Tigers in the 500 free, placing eighth with a "B" cut time of 4:21.88.
Auburn finished 5-6-7 in the 200 IM, led by freshman Andrew Mitchell with a time of 1:47.11. Tyler McGill finished behind him with a 1:47.28 while Michael Silva rounded out the trio with a time of 1:47.47. All three times are NCAA provisional cuts.
Auburn's women earned their second SEC title of the meet on Thursday after teammates Ava Ohlgren and Emily Kukors put on a shootout for the win in the 200 IM. Ohlgren swam a 1:54.97 to earn the win and repeat as 200 IM champion. Kukors was right on her heels in second with a 1:55.14.
Melanie Roberts also made the championship final, placing sixth with an "A" cut time of 2:00.17. Fellow freshman Josefin Wede posted a 10th-place finish for the Tigers, touching in at 2:01.23.
Also leading Auburn was sophomore Maggie Bird as she finished second in the 500 free, coming in with a time of 4:40.72 - a time that ranks second all-time at Auburn. Finishing behind her in the championship heat was teammate Chelsea Haser as she came in sixth with an "A" cut time of 4:44.57.
Also scoring for Auburn in the 500 free was Blakeley Bunch (12th, 4:46.43), Micah Martindale (15th, 4:49.08) and Caitlin Geary (16th, 4:49.91).
In the 50 free, it was senior Kara Denby leading the way with a 22.37, followed by Emile Ewing in seventh with at time of 22.80. Alana Dillette finished 13th overall with a time of 23.09.
In the final women's event of the night, Auburn fought it out with Tennessee and Kentucky in the 200 free relay, but the Tigers touched in third with a time of 1:29.26, just 0.19 seconds out of first-place Tennessee.
Ohlgren led off with a 22.46 split to put Auburn in second, but the Tigers surged ahead on a 22.00 split by Denby to take the lead. Auburn dropped to second after the third leg by Emily Ewing (22.38), largely because of a 21.56 split by Tennessee's Christine Magnuson.
Kukors finished with a 22.42 split for a time of 1:29.26 to keep Auburn in the top three.
Action at the SEC Championships continues Friday at the Alabama Aquatics Center with the 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 free, 100 breast, 100 back and the 400 medley relay. Preliminaries begin at 10 a.m. with finals getting started at 6 p.m.