After day one of the Tennessee Invitational at Allan Jones Aquatic Center, both the Tennessee men and the Tennessee women have jumped out in front.
The Tennessee men finished the 12-event day with 369.5 points, well clear of the second-best score, where Penn sits with 247 points. Denver is in third, then Duke, North Carolina and Carson-Newman round out the field on the men’s side.
On the women’s side, the 327 point day gives the Lady Vols a resounding lead over Duke, who ended the first day with 266 points. North Carolina is in third, followed by Denver, Penn, Carson-Newman and Marshall.
“We clearly have a lot of things to work on, but I saw quite a bit of improvement today and I also think we are doing some things really well,” head coach Matt Kredich said.
Sam McHugh won the 200 IM (1:44.08) and Kyle Decoursey set a new career high in his 50-yard freestyle win, finishing in a time of 19.18.
“He (Decoursey) is somebody we definitely lean on and rely on as a closer,” Kredich said. “It’s great to see him swim a best time and continue to make progress.”
The Tennessee men were also aided by a victory in the 400-yard medley relay, the final event of the evening.
For the Lady Vols, sophomore Tess Cieplucha was an important part of the success on day one of the meet. She dropped four seconds off her preliminary time in the 500 freestyle, winning in a time of 4:40.43, the second-fastest time in Tennessee history.
“The nice thing about both teams, but our women’s team, in particular, is that we’re starting to have a lot of people rise to the level where we know we can count on them,” Kredich said. “Tess is stepping into that role this year, certainly in the 500 (freestyle), and probably in the 400 IM tomorrow too.”
The Lady Vols also got a boost from another sophomore, Erika Brown, who finished second in the 50 freestyle. Her time of 21.50 is an automatic NCAA qualifying time and also a school record.
“She (Brown) dropped almost a second in a day in a 50, which is really unheard of at that level,” Kredich said. “It’s really exciting to see what she has been able to do just this year and she put up a really elite time against an elite swimmer.”
The Tennessee women were also able to win their 400 medley relay, finishing in 3:31.48 behind performances from Micah Bohon, Katie Armitage, Erika Brown and Stanzi Moseley.
Kredich said the relay wins provided an important finish to the first day of the meet.
“We take a lot of pride in the relays,” Kredich said. “It ends up being a long night, one of the challenges of the night is to have people coming back for their second, third or fourth swim and perform well on the relays. I thought we had a lot of people do that and so I was excited to see us perform that well on the relays.”
Tennessee also had a solid performance in the diving well, sweeping both events on day one.
Junior Rachel Rubadue got the night started with a win on the one-meter springboard, scoring 276.50.
Diving coach Dave Parrington was pleased with how Rubadue performed.
“She (Rubadue) was solid,” Parrington said. “It wasn’t spectacular, but it was really solid. Some other people were making mistakes, she made a couple mistakes, but nothing major, and she didn’t panic.”
The Lady Vols did lose freshman diver Ana Hernandez to an ankle bruise during the meet. Her timetable to return is unclear, but Parrington said she will be out for the rest of this meet.
“She completed the competition with a bone bruise on her foot … She managed to actually finish off the competition pretty well given those circumstances, she showed a lot of toughness and I was really proud of her,” Parrington said.
On the men’s side, Tennessee was once again propelled by junior Colin Zeng, who won the three-meter event with a score of 408.40.
“Colin was a model of consistency all day long,” Parrington said. “And actually tonight we did throw a brand new dive. His final dive was a front four and a half, which is generally considered in the world of men’s diving one of the toughest dives to do…it will probably wind up being a dive that we use in finals-type situations.”
Will Hallam took fourth and Liam Stone finished fifth in the three-meter.
Tennessee will look to have the same success on day two of the meet, where competition resumes on Friday at 10 a.m. with prelims and 6 p.m. for finals at Allan Jones Aquatic Center.