Jump to Day 4 results.
AUBURN, Ala. – Earlier this season, the No. 18 University of Arkansas swimming and diving team became the first team in program history to post 10 wins in a season. On Saturday, the Razorbacks (10-1, 3-1) continued their history-making ways, becoming the first Arkansas team to finish as high as fifth at the Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championship meet.After last season’s seventh place showing at SECs, head Razorback coach Jeff Poppell made it the goal of the 2008-09 Razorbacks to break into the top five.
“It was a fantastic meet for us,” Poppell said. “Finishing in a program-high fifth place and less than 100 points behind Tennessee, who is the NO. 7 team in the country is a great accomplishment for us. Our swimmers and divers did an outstanding job this week and we’re very excited about our final results.”
Every one of the swimmers who traveled to Auburn for the meet contributed to the team’s success, breaking over 30 personal best times and setting nine school records behind six swimmers. Senior Stephanie Carr, juniors Leah Pierce, Yi Ting Siow and Lynette Ng, sophomore Katie Kastes and freshman Katie Whitbeck contributed to the eight Razorback records (200- and 500 freestyle, 100- and 200 breast, 200- and 400 individual medley, 200- and 400 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay).
On Saturday, the Razorbacks made the final climb from seventh place to fifth, behind SIow, who won the 200 breast event, surging past swimmers from SEC powerhouses, Georgia, the No. 1 team in the country, and Alabama to touch in first, with a Razorback record and NCAA ‘B’ cut time of 2:10.33, one one-hundredth of a second shy of an ‘A’ cut time that would have automatically qualified her for the NCAA Championships in March.
“We’re very proud of Yi Ting for winning her first SEC title and the first SEC championship win for the Razorbacks in a very long time,” Poppell said. “It was really nice to hear the Arkansas fight song when she was up on medal stand being presented with her medal.”
Pierce also turned in a ‘B’ cut time of 2:13.97 in the 200 breast, placing seventh. Erin Neumann was the third Razorback to score in the event, finishing 14th with a time of 2:16.45. Neumann set a personal best time of 2:14.62 in the prelims of the 200 breast on Saturday morning.
Arkansas entered a conference-high four swimmers into the 1,650 free final, each of them scoring in the event and three swimmers turning in ‘B’ cut times.
Led by Carr who turned in a ‘B’ cut time of 16:13.14 to finish in sixth, Jamie Marks set a career-high time of 16:24.26 to finish ninth and freshman Alison Templin earned the first ‘B’ cut time of her career, touching in 11th with a time of 16:28.41.
Ashley Largo also scored in the 1,650 free, with her 14th place time of 16:38.42.
Kastes and Marks qualified for the finals of the 200 fly, where Kastes, who holds the Arkansas record in the event, came in fifth with a ‘B’ cut time of 1:56.47, less than a second off her record time of 1:55.66. Marks set her second personal-best of the day, placing 11th in a time of 1:59.91.
The Razorbacks took a 33 point edge over Alabama into the final event of the meet, the 400 medley relay. That edge was enough to hold their spot, securing them the highest conference finish in Arkansas swimming and diving history. The team of Whitbeck, Ng, Summer Jackson and Siow finished the race in a time of 3:26.48, in eighth place.
“This was a great week for the team,” Poppell said. “This program has come a long way in three years since finishing 1-10 and we just want to keep moving forward. We’re already looking forward to next year.”
Although Florida, who led from the first event on day one of the meet, never had a close challenger for the conference title, the fight for second went down to the last event, with Auburn trailing Georgia by half a point, 691-689.5.
Refusing to settle for third a year after winning the 2008 SEC Championship, the Tigers roared to a first place finish and SEC record time of 3:12.00 in the event with Georgia finishing behind them in second place. With the win, the Tigers clinched second place at the meet and knocked the reigning NCAA championship Bulldogs into third.
Next Saturday, the Razorbacks will be in Athens, Ga. for the NCAA Last Chance Invite, running all day. For complete coverage of Razorback swimming and diving, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.