Tide looks to end season strong

CW Staff

The swimming and diving Southeastern Conference Championships will be held today through Saturday in Athens, Ga.

In a conference nationally renowned for its success in athletic competition, these championships often have an impact on a far larger scale than that of conference-wide champions. As the SEC has emerged as one of the premiere conferences in the nation for swimming and diving, the entire swimming and diving nation will be looking towards Athens this week.

All eight schools from the SEC are comfortably placed in the top 25 for the men, and continuing to strive for more. Of those teams, Auburn and Florida are in the top 10, with Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Kentucky rounding out the remainder of the polls.

As Crimson Tide head coach Eric McIlquham prepped his team for this meet, he said he has stressed the importance of finishing as a team.

“It’s what we’ve talked about from day one,” he said. “We talk about how it’s a culmination of our season. Everything we do, we have to swim the race we know how to swim.”

So far, finishing hasn’t been a problem for the men’s team. On the season, the Tide has gone 7-2, (3-2 SEC), and has beaten many teams loaded with talent. The Tide’s only losses were a 185-115 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs to close out the season, and a loss to 13-time defending SEC Champion Auburn Tigers.

The women have had a lot of success as well, going 9-3 (3-3 SEC) on the season. They also have a lot of competition to look forward, facing six SEC schools in the top 25. As seniors for Alabama, they’ve long waited for a chance to beat the Tide’s rivals and take the SEC crown to Tuscaloosa.

The Tide comes into the meet with confidence. Alabama finished out the season by losing to UGA and winning against South Carolina in a tri-meet.

This meet provided competition to help get ready for the SEC championships, and it was held in the same pool that will host the championships.

More importantly, however, was the way the Tide competed in those matches. During that week, Mark Randall and Adam Booher were both awarded SEC Male Swimmer and Diver of the Week honors. Senior Augustina de Giovanni was named the SEC Female Swimmer of the Week for her performance there as well.

“Anytime you have kids of that caliber, it helps,” McIlquham said.

Apart from winning the SEC Swimmer of the Week, Tide swimmer Mark Randall also holds the NCAA’s fastest times of the year in the 500, 1000 and 1650 meter freestyle. And he is ranked first nationally in the 1000 and second in both the 500 and 1650 freestyles.

McIlquham noted the confidence on his team, especially in the face of such adverse competition.

“The kids are very confident right now heading into this competition,” he said. “Each team has Olympians. It’s very thick in terms of competitors. Those are the guys that thrive off competition. And a lot of them are on our team.”