Dave Parrington has been the diving coach for the past 27 years and has been a part of four of the 10 conference meets Tennessee has hosted. While he says each championship has a slightly different feel to it, one thing remains the same.
The atmosphere of SECs tends to bring out the best in athletes across the board.
“They’re all competitors,” Parrington said. “They live for this and the excitement of getting up and going against the best.”
The 21 Olympians come from nine different school and represented 15 different countries in Rio, but both Parrington and head coach Matt Kredich are quick to remind that some of the best athletes have not made it to the highest level of the sport yet.
“The distillation of talent and even coaching excellence in this conference is pretty incredible,” Kredich said. “We’ve just had so much success for the sport of swimming rise from this conference.”
Tennessee is hosting the SEC swimming and diving championships for the first time since 2012 and the 10th time in program history. The women’s team finished second and the men finished sixth at last year’s conference meet at Missouri. Texas A&M’s women’s team and Florida’s men’s team are the defending champions.
The action starts Tuesday morning at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center with swimming time trials at 10 a.m. followed by the men’s 1- diving preliminaries at 11 a.m. and the women’s 3-meter preliminaries at 2 p.m. Finals for the men’s 1-meter, 200 medley relay, women’s 3-meter and 800 free relay begin at 5:30 p.m.
Junior Liam Stone is the reigning NCAA 1-meter champion and has posted the highest scores in the 1-meter (418.80) and 3-meter (440.18) in the conference so far this year. Stone has also been named the SEC Diver of the Week four times during the 2016-2017 season.
Sophomore Rachel Rubadue collected a bronze medal in the 3-meter with a score of 354.00 in her first SEC championship meet and was named the SEC Freshman Diver of the Year. Her highest score in the event this season was 343.95 in October’s meet at Louisville.
Tennessee women have had lots of success in relay events in the past. Senior Kira Toussaint and sophomore Madeline Banic were a part of the teams that took the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay to help the women’s team to its second place finish at last year’s conference meet.
During the break in the action between the last meet and the SEC championships, Coach Kredich has focused on ensuring the Volunteers are well rested and healthy. As the dual meet season came to a close, the Vols were running out of steam.
But between having downtime following the Florida meet and all the preparation that goes into hosting the conference championship, the team is excited and ready to go again.
“Three weeks ago, we were probably close to the lowest energy that I think I’ve seen our team have because we had a lot of people sick, and it’s just the time of the season when the season starts to feel like it’s been long,” Kredich said. “Boy, in the last 10 days it’s like the energy has gone through the roof, and it just keeps getting higher. It’s been fun to watch.
“I like where we are in terms of health and energy and attitude right now.”