FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas swimming and diving team is set to compete in the Tennessee Invitational this Wednesday, Nov. 16 through Friday, Nov. 18 at the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Invitational will feature six teams in addition to Arkansas, including Tennessee, Kentucky, and LSU all from the Southeastern Conference. Rounding out the field are Louisville, Southern Illinois and soon-to-be SEC member Texas A&M.
Tennessee and Texas A&M are ranked ninth and 10th respectively in the first College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll released Nov. 9. Louisville, the 2011 Big East Champions, are ranked 17th, and LSU is 20th.
Razorbacks head coach Jeff Poppell said he is excited to see his athletes compete against several of the top swimming and diving programs in the country.
"It’s going to be a fast meet," Poppell said. "I would say just on paper looking at the teams that are going to be competing there, it could arguably be the fastest invitational in the fall. I think it’s going to be a great field."
Arkansas has had more than two weeks of training since its last meet, the Rice Invitational in Houston, Texas Oct. 28-29. Against Boise State, Rice, Nebraska and Houston, the Razorbacks finished first with a score of 1,135, surpassing second-place Boise State by 297 points. Arkansas broke seven Rice Aquatics Center facility records at the meet, its first invitational of the year.
Junior Chelsea Franklin set one of those facility records in the 1,650 freestyle, winning by a wide margin with a time of 16:55.31. Franklin currently holds top 12 times in both the 1,000 free and the 1,650 free.
Senior Katie Whitbeck continued her hot streak in butterfly events at Rice by winning the 200 fly and breaking a facility record with a time of 2:02.46.
Arkansas also flaunted its youth movement in breaststroke events. Freshman Nikki Daniels won the 100 breast (1:04.23), freshman Julia Banach won the 200 breast (2:15.55, facility record), and Razorback newcomers took four of the top six spots of the 100 breast and the top three finishers in the 200 breast.
Diver Kesha Naylor also continued her successful season on the boards, winning both the one meter and three meter competitions with respective scores of 285.95 and 300.35. Naylor was named SEC Diver of the Week after she set the Arkansas record in the three meter dive with a score of 352.8.
Both the invitational format and competition against SEC opponents will give the Razorbacks valuable experience in a format that will be similar to postseason meets. The SEC Championships will also be held at the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn., a feature that Poppell is particularly excited about.
"It gives us an opportunity to get in that pool and get on those diving boards that we’ll actually be competing in at our championship meet for the year," Poppell said.
In addition to useful preparation for the SEC Championships, the Tennessee Invitational will assist athletes preparing for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials which begin in June. The preliminary races at Tennessee will be held in long course format, the same format that will be used at the Olympic Trials. The Razorbacks have eight athletes already qualified for the Trials.
All three days of competition will consist of a morning and an afternoon session, with the first beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16. For more information about Razorback swimming and diving, please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.