​Swimming and diving progress

​Swimming and diving progress

UA Athletics

While the Alabama swim and dive team didn’t beat the Tigers in the final dual meet of the fall, the Crimson Tide did win 10 races. UA Athletics

Kelly Ward

This year was different.

Alabama won 10 races against Auburn. It didn’t beat the Tigers in the final dual meet of the fall, but it didn’t make it easy for them either, falling 167-133.

“I think the team has kind of come of age in the sense that they feel like they can be competitive with the best in the country, and maybe a couple of years ago we had that as a goal someday to get to that point, but I don’t know that the confidence was there at this point, and we’ve been working on that,” Pursley said. “We’ve got a great group, all the classes, but the freshmen this year have no sense of intimidation at all. ‘Let’s stand up and go toe-to-toe, and give a run for their money and try to knock them off,’ and they came pretty close to doing that.”

In the distance events, junior Brian Westlake swept the 1,000 and 500. He beat Auburn’s Grant Schenk to the wall in the 1,000 by four one-hundredths of a second. In the 500, he beat out Schenk again, this time by more than half a second.

“I just knew like every race counts, every point counts so I just wanted to get as many points as we can,” Westlake said. “Every finish counts so I just wanted to beat every person I could.”

The men’s team fell to Auburn but beat LSU soundly 220-80 in the double dual meet. The women’s team lost to both Tigers, falling to LSU 155-145 and Auburn 174-126.

“Our main goal always coming into these competitions is to close the gap on the teams that are ranked ahead of us and continue to progress up the rankings and we came out a little short and short on the score, but it’s like a football game,” Pursley said. “If we had done a little something different here or there, things could’ve changed, but I was real pleased with the passion, with the spirit, with the aggressive racing and it’s a big difference from what we have seen in the last couple years.”

The defending NCAA Champion in the 50 freestyle, Kristian Gkolomeev swept the sprint events on Saturday. In the 50 freestyle, he posted a time of 19.65, the top time in the nation. He took first in the 100 with a time of 44.38.

Senior Kaylin Burchell won the 100 breaststroke this season with a time of 1:01.00. Burchell has won the event three times this season.

“All around it was just, the whole team came together,” Burchell said. “I think more so than last time we swam Auburn.”

The last time Burchell competed against Auburn, she was a sophomore. The biggest difference in the two years has been training, she said.

“I think we’ve definitely made some big strides as far as the training,” Burchell said. “Obviously the coaches with our training. Again, it’s like the team environment. When I go to practice every day, it’s like I’m swimming a meet. Everybody’s competitive. Everybody’s racing in practice. I think that’s made the biggest difference.”

The swimming and diving teams will compete at the Virginia Tech Invitational in Blacksburg, Virginia, from Nov. 20 to 22.