Wildcats Finish Eighth, Ninth at SEC Championships

Complete Meet Results

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kentucky’s swimming and diving program wrapped up the final day of the 2016 Southeastern Conference Championships, with the women earning an eighth-place finish with 619 points while the men finished ninth with 530 points.  Both teams were close to finishing one spot higher, as seventh-place LSU finished just five points ahead of the women while eighth-place Texas A&M had a two-point edge on the men’s side.  

The Texas A&M women won their first ever SEC title with 1,166.5 points, followed by Tennessee (1,139.5), Georgia (1,099.5), Auburn (797), Missouri (764), Florida (754), LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas (491), Alabama (486), South Carolina (424.5) and Vanderbilt (166).

Florida’s men grabbed their fourth consecutive conference title with 1,275 points, trailed by Auburn (1,223), Georgia (1,101), Alabama (915), Missouri (902), Tennessee (745), South Carolina (574), Texas A&M, Kentucky and LSU (526).

Altogether, the Wildcats recorded 17 marks on the final day of competition that either cracked or improved on a top-10 all-time mark for Kentucky.

“Overall, I think it was a really good effort from both squads,” noted head coach Lars Jorgensen.  “The girls really hung in there; we were hard hit by graduation and leadership, and lost some really good people last year.  Our freshmen stood up and were outstanding.  On the guys’ side, I thought we a little bit up and down, a little bit inconsistent throughout the competition.  I was really pleased with how they fought.  We lost the last relay to Texas A&M; they’re a really good team.  So maybe next year we can compete with them.”

The women’s side was highlighted by four Wildcats appearing in a championship final between the 200 back and the platform dive.  Danielle Galyer fell just shy of reprising her title in the 200 back, falling to Texas A&M’s Lisa Bratton by just .11 seconds.  However, Galyer broke her school record and recorded her third A cut of the season in the event, touching in at 1:50.73 for the silver medal.  Bridgette Alexander appeared alongside Galyer in the championship heat, placing eighth in 1:54.05.  Also earning a second swim was freshman Kayla Churman, who placed seventh in the C final in 1:58.11 after going 1:57.14 in the prelims for the fifth-fastest time in school history.  Kristen Keifer also cracked the top-10 with her prelims swim of 1:57.73, good for sixth all-time.

“It’s not easy in our conference to repeat as a champion.  Danielle gave it a great run and we were really pleased with her effort.  Coming up a little short, I think that’s going to make her better at NCAAs,” commented Jorgensen on the junior’s performance.

In the platform dive, Rebecca Hamperian and Courtney Clark advanced to the finals after scoring 273.90 and 265.65, respectively.  Clark’s score was a career best, which moves the redshirt-freshman to eighth all-time.  Clark went on to finish fifth in the championship final with 260.70 points, followed by Hamperian with 252.20 points.

Kentucky also had a record broken in the 200 breast, with Kendra Crew bettering her own standard in the event in 2:10.89 while Ann Davies notched the second-fastest swim in program laurels in 2:12.94.  Both qualified for the B finals, with Crew finishing third in the consolation heat in 2:11.35 while Davies clocked a 2:13.39, both the second-fastest swims of their careers.

The Wildcats also had three swims that moved up in the top-10 in the 1650 free.  Kathryn Painter paced the team in 16:19.42, good for fourth all-time and 10th overall, while Kendal Casey placed 12th in 16:25.96.   Olivia Treski finished 16th with a career time of 16:27.89, good for seventh all-time, and Kentucky also saw scores out of Kelly Berger and Meredith Whisenhunt.  Berger finished 20th in 16:32.73 while Whisenhunt clocked a 16:37.30 for 22nd and the eighth-fastest time in program history.

Geena Freriks was the lone representative for the Blue and White in the 100 free, but just missed out on earning a second swim after clocking a 50.12.  Freriks closed out the day by leading off on the 400 free relay along with Galyer, Haley McInerny and Alexander, as the quartet combined for a time of 3:20.08 to finish 10th overall.

On the men’s side, George Greenhalgh was the only swimmer to reach the championship final after breaking his own school record in the 100 breast by nearly a second in 1:55.98.  Greenhalgh went on to swim the second-fastest swim of his career, placing eighth in 2:56.17.  Brandon Flynn also competed in a final in the 200 breast, finishing sixth in the C final in 1:59.12 after recording a prelims time of 1:58.86, the fourth-fastest swim in program history.

Like the women, the men had a solid showing in the mile.  Drew Aviotti was just over half a second off his school record time, placing eighth in 15:00.96.  Jamie Stevenson and Jack Gunning both swam personal records to land in the top-20, with Stevenson finishing in 15:19.18 for 18th while Gunning swam a 15:22.45 for 20th.  Both times rank in UK’s top-10, with Stevenson owning the fifth-fastest time while Gunning holds down the No. 8 spot.

Kentucky earned second swims in both the 200 back and 100 free.  In the 200 back, Josh Swart recorded the fourth-fastest time in school history in the prelims in 1:45.17, followed by Walker Thaning in 1:45.26 for the sixth-fastest swim.  The two earned a spot in the C final, with Swart finishing third in 1:45.26 and Thaning placing fourth in 1:45.39.  David Dingess also recorded a top-10 time for the Wildcats, with his prelims time of 1:46.23 going down as the eighth-best performance donning the Blue and White.

The final Wildcat to earn a place in the top-10 was Sean Gunn, who clocked the ninth-fastest time in program history of 44.11 in the prelims of the 100 free and went on to finish seventh in the C final in 44.39 seconds.  Cobe Garcia also swam a career best in the prelims, just missing out on a final in 44.22 seconds, which would have been tied for 10th on UK’s all-time list prior to Gunn’s swim.

Garcia led off on the 400 free relay along with Gunn, Scott Crosthwaite and Thaning to close the meet.  The Wildcats swam considerably below their previous season-best, but fell short to Texas A&M’s lineup in a race that could have seen the team earn an eighth place finish had they bettered the Aggies.  Kentucky finished ninth in the final relay in 2:56.72.  

With the conference championships behind them, the Wildcats will focus on qualifying more members of the team to the NCAA Championships, which will be held in Atlanta, Ga., on March 17-19 for the women and March 24-26 for the men.  Kentucky is slated to travel swimmers to the NCAA Last Chance Qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio, and Athens, Ga.  The first qualifier will be in Columbus on Feb. 28, while the Athens qualifier will run March 5-6.  The Kentucky divers will also compete in the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships in order to earn a bid to the national championships, which will be March 10-12 in West Lafayette, Ind.

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.