2022 SEC Championships Day 1 Overreaction: EVERYBODY SWIMS FAST!
2022 DRY SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
The first day of the SEC Championships was quick.
SEC championships are always quick, but these were really quick. Almost every team came away from the day with something huge to celebrate. South Carolina divers. Texas A&M “A” Cup. Alabama encounter record. Lots of relay divisions that are some of the best ever.
In the medley relay alone, there have been at least half a dozen splits all-time.
Margo Geer showed that, despite having limited coaching experience, she has no trouble taking the reins as head coach at Alabama. The women’s team won a second straight SEC title in the 200m medley relay in a new SEC record, and the men finished 2nd – with a 22.63 breaststroke split of Derek Maas ranked as the third best of all time.
The Tennessee women had a good day in diving and came within half a second of the school record in the 200 medley relay, with no seniors in the group – meaning the battle is on with the Crimson Tide. They then came back and won the 800 freestyle relay for only the second time in program history.
The Arkansas women finished 7th in 1:36.85, and even with the well-told story of a wave of out-of-program transfers last year (over a dozen), they were still 1, 06 seconds faster than they were at the 2021 SEC Championship meet.
In the men’s 200m medley, Adam Chaney swam the 3rd best 50 backstroke split ever to launch Florida on their way to a title and a meet record, Luca Urlando (19.57) and Eric Friese (19.64) are both now top-5 all-time in the 50 free on a relay start, and freshman from Tennessee jordan crooks split 18.43 to anchor his team’s stint — not as good as Curry, but by most other measures a huge swim in his SEC Championship debut.
The A&M men swam their first SEC stint in the post-Shaine Casas era, and they hit an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:24.00 for 5th place. It’s a huge boost of confidence in the stellar year as they await some huge recruiting classes, including the No. 1 recruit in the entire class of 2022 Baylor Nelson.
Teams under new coaches also swam well, LSU broke school records, all were faster than last year, and the Auburn women placed 4th in the 200 medley relay – two-place better than they would have been last year without disqualification. The Tigers took a hit when the men’s 200 IM was disqualified, but they would have been 3rd even with a safe trade, which is a big bump from their 7th place finish last season.
The Kentucky women were almost a second faster than they were last year when they won their first SEC title in this event. and their first SEC tag team title.
Even the Aggie women had excitement in a 6th place finish in the 800 freestyle relay – Chloe Stepanek started in 1:42.40, which is his best time of half a second, and only 0.05 seconds slower than what it took to win the NCAA last year. The team was 9 seconds better than their best from the previous season.
The Florida men broke an SEC record even with Kieran Smith being about a second slower than his best relay lead time.
Even the Kentucky men, after missing out on their top seed in the 200 medley relay, rebounded with a big swim in the 800 freestyle relay, breaking the school record and finishing 3rd in 6:14.35.
The only team that really struggled on day one was the men and women of the Missouri Tigers. All four stints were slower than the top seeds. In fact, they were the only two teams that didn’t improve on their lead times in all of their stints. Missouri was better than the top seed in only one of four stints, while the Kentucky men were slower than the top seed in both stints.
All in all, it was an electric start to the competition, all contenders are still contenders, and very little was cleared up about the team race. Just how we like them.