Feb. 23, 2013
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Auburn closed out the 2013 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships on a high note Saturday night, earning individual SEC titles in five of six men's events and posting three more nation-leading times at the Texas A&M Student Rec Center Natatorium.
Senior Kyle Owens and junior Marcelo Chierighini successfully defended their 2012 titles in the 200-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle, respectively, junior Zane Grothe won Auburn's first title in the 1,650-yard freestyle since 1999, and junior John Santeiu won the platform diving event for his first individual conference title.
Chierighini was named SEC Men's Swimmer of the Year, and Owens was the runner-up for the Commissioner's Trophy, awarded to the high-point scorer of the meet. Owens had 91 points in his three individual events, just a half-point behind Missouri diver David Bonuchi.
"We came out and got the ball rolling early tonight," Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. "What an outstanding swim from Zane in lane eight; you don't see too many guys win from out there. He just wanted it from the very first stroke, and it's great that we can come to a meet like this and win the fastest event and also the mile. We've got the full spectrum there and we feel really good about it. It's hard when you're out on the end of the pool and you can't see what's going on. He had to set his own pace. He got into a rhythm early, and that was the key to his success. He's been runner-up a few times, and I think that really got to him. He was ready to win.
"Marcelo is just in another league right now. He won that (100 free) by a full body length. That's just unheard of; we haven't seen that since Cesar (Cielo). He's swimming outstandingly, and we're hopeful he'll swim faster at NCAAs. And Kyle, just an amazing performance from him. I think he'll be SEC Swimmer of the Meet. He won the 100 and 200 (back), was third in the 200 IM, and won all the relays he's been on. He's had an outstanding meet and led this team by example.
Grothe started the night off on a high note as he captured Auburn's second all-time SEC title in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 14:41.45, the second-best swim of his career. He was the wire-to-wire leader with splits in the high-26 range for most of the race. With about 400 yards to go, Georgia's Will Freeman started gaining on him and got within six-tenths at the 1400-yard split. But Grothe's final four splits put the race out of reach and he won by nearly three seconds.
One event later, Chierighini won his second individual title of the week and his second straight in the 100 free, blazing to a time of 41.60 to win by more than a full second. It was the fastest time in the country this year and fourth-best in Auburn history, just .05 behind Matt Targett's SEC record of 41.55 from 2009. It also marks the 10th consecutive SEC title for Auburn in the men's 100 freestyle.
Owens gave Auburn its third win of the night with a school-record time of 1:39.69, successfully defending his 2012 title in the 200 backstroke and giving him his fourth individual SEC title in two years. He becomes the first Auburn swimmer to win back-to-back titles in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, and his time broke Pascal Wollach's record of 1:39.91 from 2009. Brandon Siemasko was 12th in the consolation final with a 1:45.29, and Jacob Siar won the C-final in 1:44.66.
Junior diver John Santeiu won his first SEC title in the platform diving event, scoring a career-high 426.05 points to finish 44 points clear of runners-up Bonuchi and Texas A&M's Ford McLiney. It was the 11th platform diving title for Auburn in the last 13 years. Sophomore Fraser McKean turned in a fourth-place finish with a 365.65, and Michael Beran took sixth place with 344.00. Freshman Andrew Laing narrowly missed the finals with a score of 328.30 to finish ninth overall.
"They did a great job," Auburn diving coach Jeff Shaffer said. "The key tonight was going back to our philosophy - if you can minimize mistake, you can maximize your opportunity for success. We live by that every day. John may not have been the best diver in the contest, but tonight he made the fewest mistakes. And that's why he stepped up and won first place. I couldn't be more proud of all four of them - Andrew, our freshman coming in to end up ninth, and fortunately he didn't knock John out! Fraser didn't even train last week, and he was really gutsy and did a great job. Mike, with a personal-best, was outstanding."
And the men's 400 freestyle relay team of Chierighini, Mendes, Disney-May and Owens finished off the night and the meet with a winning time of 2:50.12 to give Auburn its eighth straight title in the event. Chierighini led off the race with a split of 41.92 and Owens put down a 42.04 anchor split to clinch the title, Auburn's fourth relay win of the meet.
Auburn won a total of six individual events and four relays during the five-day meet at Texas A&M. It marks the most event victories for the Tigers at an SEC meet since also winning 10 titles at the 2010 SEC Championships.
Florida won the men's championship with a total of 1,408 points as Auburn's 16-year streak of SEC men's swimming & diving titles came to an end. The Tigers were the runners-up with 1,196 points. It ranks as the third-longest streak of SEC championships in any sport in conference history, just behind Florida volleyball's streak of 18 straight titles (1991-2008) and Arkansas' men's cross country streak of 17 straight (1991-2007).
"It has been an incredible streak which I was a part of as an athlete or coach for nine years, so I understand how hard it has been to maintain," Hawke said. "It's disappointing, but I am very encouraged at how fast we swam this meet. We had so many fast times and PRs, which really sets us up well for NCAAs next month. Give credit to Florida, they had a great meet and swam really well. This meet will fuel us moving forward, and we will continue to work tirelessly to represent Auburn at the highest level. We have a month to improve and hopefully we can build off our fast times this meet to swim even faster at NCAAs."
The Auburn women finished in fifth place with 860 points. Georgia won its fourth straight title with 1,420 points, and Texas A&M was the runner-up with 1,296. Florida (1,190.5) was third and Tennessee (1,018) took fourth.
On the women's side, freshman Jillian Vitarius clocked the fourth-fastest 200 backstroke in Auburn history with a 1:53.68 to finish sixth in the championship final. Junior Aubrey Peacock won the consolation final with a 1:54.18, the seventh-fastest time in school history, and Caitlyn Forman posted a 1:56.72 to take 21st overall.
Senior Micah Lawrence finished sixth in the women's 200 breaststroke final in a field laden with 2012 Olympians. She posted a time of 2:09.84 as Texas A&M's Breeja Larson, a teammate of Lawrence on the U.S. Olympic Team in London, set a new SEC meet record with a 2:05.71.
Senior Katie Gardocki also earned a sixth-place finish with a personal-best time of 16:01.86 in the women's 1,650 freestyle. She dropped nearly three full seconds off her previous best and moved up to fourth in Auburn history in the event. Junior Emily Bos took 11th overall in the women's 100 free with a 48.96, and senior Hannah Riordan was 15th in 49.22.
In the men's 200 breast, Peter Haas lowered his personal-best time with a 1:57.47 to finish 11th in the consolation final, just .01 ahead of senior Stuart Ferguson (1:57.48). Freshman Jordan Jones also broke the 2-minute barrier for the first time with a 1:59.87, and Chandler Gerlach went 2:03.48 to finish 24th.
Auburn will now begin preparations for the NCAA Championships, which will be held in Indianapolis at the IUPUI Natatorium. The women's meet runs March 21-23, and the men's meet is set for March 28-30. Selected Tiger swimmers may also compete at next week's Bulldog Last Chance Invitational in Athens, Ga., and the Auburn divers will begin preparing for the NCAA Zone B Championships, set for March 11-13 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Auburn Swimming & Diving
2013 SEC Championships - Day 5 Finals
February 23, 2013
Texas A&M Student Rec Center - College Station, Texas
Men's Final Team Scores: Florida 1408, Auburn 1196, Georgia 1024, Tennessee 787.5, Missouri 779.5, LSU 753.5, Texas A&M 709.5, South Carolina 540.5, Kentucky 452.5, Alabama 451.
Women's Final Team Scores: Georgia 1420, Texas A&M 1296, Florida 1190.5, Tennessee 1018, Auburn 860, Arkansas 594, LSU 494, Missouri 487, Kentucky 368.5, Alabama 353, South Carolina 248, Vanderbilt 183.
Women's 1650 Freestyle
6. Katie Gardocki (16:01.86) (PR)
Men's 400 Freestyle Relay
1. Chierighini, Mendes, Disney-May, Owens (2:50.12)
Women's 400 Freestyle Relay
5. Riordan, Bos, Fonteno, Krakoski (3:15.90)
Zane Grothe (1650 Freestyle Champion)
"I am so happy. I set a goal time tonight between 14:45 and 14:40, and I was right there on the low end. It sets me up really well going to NCAAs, not only place-wise but also going for that best time and maybe being a little higher up on that podium. I started hurting pretty bad about halfway, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to pick it up on my own, so I was waiting for them to make the move. Then he started reeling me in. And I remembered back to the dual meet here at Texas A&M, when they started reeling me in and left me behind. I said, `Not again.' And so I picked it up and kept going. (Toward the end of the race) I saw some people jumping around a little bit (outside my lane), and I knew it had to be my teammates."
Marcelo Chierighini (100 Freestyle, 400 Freestyle Relay Champion)
"It was huge (to repeat as champion). I was trying to be more under control tonight. I was surprised with 42.0 this morning, so I knew I could go 41 (seconds) tonight. I just tried to go out a little bit faster, and that's all I needed to do. Before the year, I thought 41.9 or 42.0 would be a good time, so I'm really happy."
Kyle Owens (200 Backstroke, 400 Freestyle Relay Champion, SEC Swimmer of the Meet)
"It felt really good to come back and defend. It means a lot more to me to do it for the team than for myself. It's really good to have that going into NCAAs. And on the relay, to end my SEC career anchoring a winning relay, that was awesome. Auburn is storied for their sprint program. It felt great to end it with such a great group of guys."
John Santeiu (Platform Diving Champion)
"Coming in, as a freshman, there was so much history with Auburn diving on platform. Being part of that now, to think of myself with that crew is crazy. I was eighth in prelims and wasn't very happy with that. I was able to come back really wanting to do something to show off and to hit every dive better than I did in prelims. And I was able to do that. When I hit my second dive, my inward 3 ½ - when you know you hit it, that feeling is awesome. And when you do that, you know it's possible on any dive."