Going into its first championship-style meet of the season, the goal for the Tennessee swim and dive team was to get as many swimmers opportunities as possible.
In their first day of competition at Allan Jones Aquatic Center, the Vols did just that. The men’s team leads the Tennessee Invitational with 374 points and the Lady Vols lead the women’s side with 424 points.
“One of the things that we wanted to do was give everybody an opportunity to really race today, whether it was a primary event or maybe a secondary event or a third event so that they’re preparing for SECs or NCAAs,” assistant coach Ashley Jahn said.
In the first event of the day, both the Tennessee women’s and men’s teams won the 200 free relays.
The men’s relay swam a winning time of 1:17.20, the fourth fastest time in program history. The women won with a time of 1:27.84, marking the fifth fastest time in program history with Erika Brown anchoring. Brown also took first in the 50 free (21.65).
In the women’s 200 IM, with six of the eight lanes wearing orange caps, Meghan Small took first place (1:53.05), followed by five of her teammates taking second through sixth place.
Jahn said that the women’s team chemistry is not by accident, and that she encourages them to spend as much time together as possible.
“One of the things that we’ve challenged the women’s team to do is warm up in their event groups and kind of stay connected with the people who are also in their events tonight, and in dual meets and there were a lot of people who did that tonight,” Jahn said.
The men’s team won two of five swimming events, and assistant head coach Lance Asti attributed their depth to the team’s versatility and ability to adjust.
“We had some guys doing off events and throwing down lifetime bests—times that are relevant in the SEC, so we’re excited about that,” Asti said. “That’s what all our guys are trying to do—trying to compete no matter what event we’re in.”
Matthew Garcia served as an example of the resiliency embedded in the team after he had two back-to-back events after a day of prelims and finals.
“We had a lot of standout performances, but Matthew Garcia in that IM was phenomenal…Then to come back and go under 46 for the first time in the 100 back, it’s a nice time drop for him, but to do it right out of that IM was an even bigger deal,” Asti said. “So I’m excited for what he can do tomorrow with some fresh legs under him.”
Senior diver Colin Zeng remains dominant on the springboards this season.
On the 1-meter dive he scored 428.55 and will compete in the 3-meter dive tomorrow, followed by the platform dive on Saturday.
“He went from two down to 43 or so up by doing a front 3 ½ pike, so he got the door open and then went right through,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “It was really good to see him take that challenge and do that dive and bring it home.”
The second day of competition will begin with preliminaries at 10:00 a.m. featuring the following events: 200 medley relay, 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 breast, 100 back and the 800 free relay.
In the afternoon, teams will compete in the finals of the men’s 3-meter and women’s 1-meter dive, just leaving the platform dives for Saturday’s order of events.