Jan. 10, 2012
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AUBURN - Eight Auburn swimming and diving seniors will compete in their final home dual meets this week as the No. 7 Tigers play host to the No. 2/4 Texas Longhorns at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center on Wednesday and Thursday.
The seventh-ranked Auburn women welcome the fourth-ranked Texas women at 5 p.m. Wednesday, while the No. 7 Tiger men will entertain the No. 2 Longhorns at 5 p.m. Thursday. The men's teams will also compete in an exhibition meet with non-traditional races on Friday afternoon beginning at 1 p.m.
Senior day festivities start at approximately 4:45 both days with the meet set for a 5 p.m. start. Both meets will follow the traditional 16-event format. Admission is free for all Auburn home swimming and diving meets. The first 150 fans on Wednesday will receive a collapsible water bottle courtesy of Niffer's, and the first 150 fans on Thursday will receive a waterproof media pouch from Auburn Bank.
Live results and live video will be available through AuburnTigers.com, and fans can follow @AuburnSwimming on Twitter for updates throughout the meets.
"We're looking forward to getting back to some racing," Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. "We've had about five weeks off now, and we've put in a lot of hard work over the Christmas holidays. I think the guys are ready to test where they are."
The four Auburn women's seniors - divers Anna Aguero and Vennie Dantin and swimmers Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Kelsey Winters - will be honored prior to Wednesday's meet, and the four men's seniors - diver Adam Godzinski and swimmers Karl Krug, Drew Modrov and Max Murphy - will be recognized in pre-meet ceremonies Thursday.
In their four years on the Plains, the 2011-12 senior class has combined for 31 All-America honors, 15 individual SEC Championships and nine school records. In addition, the men have been part of four consecutive SEC Championship teams and helped the Tigers capture the 2009 NCAA Championship.
"It's another resilient group that has seen change," Hawke said. "A lot of them were recruited by David Marsh and were here through Richard Quick's passing. They're just a tough group. I think they're a very close-knit group as well, and they've got really good leadership qualities. It will be an exciting way to finish their four years off here, hopefully with a win over Texas."
Auburn's women are 3-1 overall (1-1 SEC) in dual-meet competition and ranked seventh in the latest CSCAA poll. Three of the seniors - Vanderpool-Wallace, Dantin and Aguero - have been the sparks for the Tigers so far this year as they have combined for 17 individual wins, six relay victories and numerous SEC Athlete of the Week honors. Vanderpool-Wallace has the nation's top times in the 50 and 100 freestyle, while sophomore Olivia Scott leads the country in the 100 butterfly. Dantin, meanwhile, has been stellar on the boards with five wins on 3-meter, four wins on 1-meter and two victories on the platform.
The No. 4 Longhorn women will provide stiff competition, however. They enter at 4-0 overall (1-0 Big 12) and wins in both of their invitational meets in the fall, but the biggest win came last Saturday with a 155-145 triumph over No. 1-ranked Georgia. Texas swimmers also have some of the fastest times in the country. Senior Karlee Bispo is the nation's best in the 200 free and has the fourth-fastest 100 free and fifth-best 200 IM. Senior Katie Riefenstahl is third nationally in the 200 backstroke as well.
"(Texas') women's team is coming off a win over a top-ranked Georgia team, and their confidence is high right now," Hawke said. "We're going to get a good challenge from them."
On the men's side, No. 7 Auburn enters unbeaten on the year at 3-0 overall (1-0 SEC) and triumphant in their only invitational meet at the Georgia Invite in December. The Tiger sprinters have continued their dominance of the SEC as AU swimmers - Modrov, Krug, and James Disney-May - hold the top three times in the 50 freestyle in the league. In addition, Marcelo Chierighini and Modrov are the top two in the 100 free, while Kyle Owens and Max Murphy are the league's best two in both the 100 and 200 backstroke.
Texas' men are ranked No. 2 in the country at 3-1 overall and are coming off a dominating performance against Georgia last weekend. Senior Jimmy Feigen will provide stiff competition for the Tiger sprinters as he currently holds the third-fastest 50 free and second-best 100 free times in the country. In addition, junior Dax Hill has the nation's second-fastest 200 free and fourth-best 100 free.
"Their men's team is probably one of the most well-balanced Texas teams I've seen in a long time," Hawke said. "They're probably the favorite to win the national championship. It's going to be a real challenge for our guys. But we're excited about the prospects."
Auburn's men and women hold a slim advantage in the all-time series with Texas. The men are 12-10 all-time against the Longhorns while the women are 3-2. The Tiger men upset the No. 1-ranked Longhorns last season 125.5-117.5, snapping a four-year losing streak to Texas. Auburn's women took a 183-112 victory over the third-ranked Longhorns, ending their own two-year skid in the series.