Wildcats Fall to Auburn in Season Opener

VIDEO: Kyle Higgins Post Auburn Interview

AUBURN, Ala. – The Kentucky swimming and diving teams opened up their seasons Wednesday afternoon, suffering losses on both sides to Southeastern Conference opponent Auburn. The women’s team fell 178.5-121.5, and the men 173-127. 

“Overall, both teams performed pretty well,” said head coach Lars Jorgensen. “We were disappointed to come away with losses, but it was a good competition.”

The men saw victories in six individual events in the afternoon’s meet. Senior Kyle Higgins was the only UK swimmer to come away with multiple victories from the day, sweeping both butterfly events on the men’s side. Higgins’ time of 1:45.37 in the 200 fly surpasses the NCAA B standard in the event, while his 48.29 mark in the 100 fly is just eleven-hundredths of a second from NCAA consideration.

“I was really excited with how I swam today,” said Higgins. “It was my fastest in-season time for my college career, so I’m really excited for the season.”

Depth in the freestyle distance events emerged as a strength for the men’s squad as the trio of Jarod Kehl, Andrew Aviotti and Isaac Jones swept the 500 and 1000-yard freestyle races. Jarod Kehl’s time of 4:29.04 in the 500 was just five-hundredths shy of a B standard, with Aviotti and Jones following close behind. Aviotti had a first-place time of 9:13.56 in the 1000 for the Cats, with Jones and Kehl finishing second and third, respectively.

Diver Seb Masterton turned in a top finish for the men’s team, earning 333.83 points on the 1-meter springboard. He also notched 348.68 points on the 3-meter springboard to secure a third-place finish in the event behind Auburn’s Scott Lazeroff and Pete Turnham. Lazeroff’s 375.68 points paced all divers.

The women’s team was highlighted by springboard performances from senior diver Becca Hamperian, sweeping both the 1-meter and 3-meter events. Both her 3-meter score of 304.28 and her 1-meter score of 291.08 overwhelmed Auburn’s second-place finisher, Alison Maillard, by more than 20 points.

“I was just going into today trying to be confident and knowing that I’ve put good work in and that we’ve been working really hard at the beginning of the season,” explained Hamperian. “I just want to stay consistent with my dives and I think I did a pretty good job with that.”

The Wildcat women picked up four additional first-place finishes, along with seven NCAA B cuts on the day. The women saw great success in backstroke events, with Danielle Galyer and Bridgette Alexander going one and two in the 100. Freshman Ali Galyer turned in the top time of 1:57.66 in the 200 back as well, with Danielle and Alexander both touching in less than a second later to all meet the B standard in the event.

Freshmen Asia Seidt had a very strong showing in her first outing for the Wildcats. Seidt finished in the top two in three separate events. Her best performance came in the 200 individual medley, where her 2:01.59 first-place finish qualified for NCAA consideration. She also joined Galyer, Kendra Crew and Geena Freriks in the 400 medley relay team that picked up a second-place finish.

Crew also added strong performances for the Wildcats in the breaststroke events. The senior tied Auburn’s Natasha Lloyd for a first place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke, both touching in at 2:15.23 to secure B cuts in the event. Additionally, Crew’s second-place performance of 1:02.68 in the 100 breaststroke came in just short of the B cut time of 1:02.49 in the event.

The Blue and White will face a tough challenge as they head to Columbia, South Carolina, to face the Gamecocks on Thursday, just one day after being defeated by the Tigers.

According to Jorgensen, how quickly the team can recover will be a key component to the team’s success against South Carolina.

“It’s good for us to do this early in the season and see what we’re made of. I’m looking forward to it,” explained Jorgensen. “Dual meets always come down to those little things. We had some really good performances on both sides, but we’re going to try to get better.”

The Wildcats are slated for a noon start against the Gamecocks on Thursday.

The South Carolina men turned in a 19th-place finish at NCAAs and seventh at SECs last season. The women finished 29th and 11th, respectively. The Gamecocks return distance swimmer Akaram Mahmoud, who earned the title in the 1650 freestyle at SECs with a time of 14:35.49, and earned the silver at NCAAs in the same event, touching in at 14:31.66.

This will be the first outing of the season for the Gamecocks, as their first scheduled meet at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational was canceled due to Hurricane Matthew.

UK's women's team is 13-7 all-time vs. South Carolina in dual-meet competition, while the men are 12-8. The teams last met in 2014 in Lexington, when the women claimed a 177-123 win over the Gamecocks. The Wildcat men suffered a 207.5-92.5 loss that same day. 

For the latest on the Kentucky swimming and diving program, follow @UKSwimDive on Twitter, on Facebook at Facebook.com/UKSwimDive, and on the web at UKathletics.com.