The Crimson Tide men’s swimming and diving team competed against the Kentucky Wildcats at the Alabama Aquatic Center for a top-25 showdown on Saturday, with the Tide men staking claim to a convincing 166-132 victory.
Senior breastroke swimmer Riley Bouldin paved the way for the Tide en route to collecting three first-place victories in the 100-yard breastroke, the 200-yard breastroke and the 200-yard individual medley, with times of 56.08, 2:02.92 and 1:53.14, respectively.
Also leading the Tide was All-American freestyle swimmer Mark Randall, who brought home two first-place finishes in the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,000-yard freestyle, recording times of 4:29.51 and 9:18.31, respectively, edging out teammate Catalin Cosma in each event.
“We had a pretty tough week in the pool and worked extremely hard,” Randall said, “so I think we were able to draw some confidence from that heading into this race.”
Tide head coach Eric McIlquham said he was proud of the overall team performance, but had mixed emotions after dropping a heartbreaking match on the women’s side by a two-point margin.
“I thought our team stepped up and raced well as a whole,” McIlquham said. “To be off as long as they have and come back and hit the competition pool against a nationally ranked opponent, I thought they performed well.
“I was proud of the way we were able to adjust to their strengths.”
Kentucky head coach Gary Connelly praised the talent level of both teams, adding that he was not shocked by the outcome of Saturday’s event, particularly in the men’s events.
“To be honest, we kind of expected coming in that we were going to lose on the men’s side,” Connelly said. “To a certain extent, the race was sort of a mismatch. Alabama is more of a distance program, where as we are more of a sprint program. Their strengths are our weaknesses.
“The only thing that really surprised me was the individual medley. I would have bet body parts that we were going to win that one. We didn’t, but that’s life,” Connelly said.
Leading the Tide men in the diving championships was senior Aaron Fleshner, who placed first in both the 1-meter and 3-meter championships, tallying a final score of 387.38, slightly ahead of teammate Adam Booher’s 385.58 final score.
“It feels great to get this win, because we have worked extremely hard for it,” Fleshner said. “We knew that in the past we had tendencies to come back from a long break and come out flat, so we came back this year with a different mindset and knew that we were going to have to step up our training and work harder.”
Alabama diving coach Pat Greenwell acknowledged the countless hours of practice and repetition that goes into preparing for each competition.
“I’m so proud of this team and the effort that they have given this season,” Greenwell said. “This win means a lot. These kids truly know what it means to be winners and certainly have put forward the effort that it takes to be called a winner.”
Alabama will finish off its home schedule this weekend against New Orleans. The meet is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. start time in the aquatic center.