KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Arkansas swimming and diving team is set to compete in the SEC Championships Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 15-18, at the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The championships will feature five teams ranked in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Top 25, and six teams that the Razorbacks have faced this season.
Arkansas, 3-3 in dual meets in 2011-12, enters the postseason coming off of two straight convincing dual meet wins inside the Arkansas Natatorium. The Razorbacks defeated Kansas 199-96 Jan. 21, and wrapped up the regular season with a 220-57 win over conference opponent Vanderbilt on Senior Day Feb. 4.
Razorback head coach Jeff Poppell commented that the team’s training has revolved around preparing to peak at the conference championship.
"Every year, our focus is on the SEC Championships," Poppell said. "For every swimming and diving program, the conference championship represents the opportunity to qualify athletes for the NCAA Championships."
Possibly the toughest conference meet in the country, the SEC Championships will feature top-tier teams No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Auburn, No. 5 Georgia, No. 10 Tennessee, and No. 23 LSU. Arkansas has faced Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky and Vanderbilt in a dual meet or invitational setting this year. In addition to the win over Vanderbilt Feb. 4, the Razorbacks placed ahead of LSU and Kentucky at the Tennessee Invitational. Arkansas fell to Florida and Auburn in early-season dual meets and finished behind the host Volunteers at the Tennessee Invitational in November.
"This is one of the most exciting meets I’ve ever been a part of as a coach," Poppell said. "You’ve got some of the fastest athletes in the world. You’ve got Olympic medalists, you’ve got world record holders, you’ve got the best of the best in the world all competing at this one meet."
All-American junior Chelsea Franklin leads Arkansas in conference and national rankings. Her time of 16:10.20 is the ninth-fastest in the nation and the fourth-best in the SEC, and her time of 9:55.73 in the 1,000 free is 10th-best in the SEC and 34th in the country. Sophomore diver Kesha Naylor has broken two school records this year and earned two SEC Diver of the Week awards, and will lead Arkansas on the boards.
Each day of the SEC Championships will consist of a morning preliminary swimming session with finals in the evening, as well as diving competitions in the afternoon.
Arkansas media relations will provide live blogging each day, as well as results and recaps, on ArkansasRazorbacks.com. The 2012 SEC Championships will also air on ESPNU on a tape-delay basis Tuesday, Feb. 28, at4 p.m. For more information about Razorback swimming and diving, please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.