With the first three days of the SEC Championship meet in the books, both the men’s and women’s team have put themselves in good positions.
Tennessee’s men’s team is sixth place with 409.5 points and two medals, while the women are in fourth with 454 points and six medals.
Junior Liam Stone took the gold in the men’s 1-meter in the first night of finals, setting a new SEC record with a score of 468.30 and beating LSU freshman Juan Hernandez by a single point.
He struggled in his first two dives in the 3-meter on Thursday night, but ultimately finished third with a score of 442.90. Texas A&M’s Tyler Henschel (478.40) and LSU’s Hernandez (469.95) both surpassed the previous SEC record of 463.50, set by Stone in 2015.
While diving coach Dave Parrington’s goal is always to take first, he was very pleased with how Stone maintained his composure and came back to win the bronze.
“We’re watching some world-class — even though these guys are making mistakes — world-class divers just flat out competing,” Parrington said. “To scrap and fight and claw back into the competition when he could have just hung his head low and figured, ‘Well, that’s it,’ showed an immense amount of character from him.”
Freshman Meghan Small and sophomore Madeline Banic won back-to-back events on Wednesday night, picking up two gold medals for the women’s team. Small broke the school record once in the preliminary round of the 200 individual medley and again in the finals to set the program record at 1:53.31. Banic took the 50 freestyle in 21.54, upsetting Georgia’s Olivia Smoliga and setting both a new school record and a new best time in the country this year.
Small and Banic both secured their second medals of the meet Thursday night. Small finished third in the 400 individual medley, setting another school record with 4:04.93. Banic earned another bronze for the Volunteer women in the 100 butterfly, finishing in 51.50 behind Texas A&M’s Sarah Gibson (50.71) and Georgia’s Chelsea Britt (50.93). Gibson’s time was good for the new SEC record.
The women’s 200 medley relay team of Kira Toussaint, Colleen Callahan, Erika Brown and Banic and the 200 free relay team of Toussaint, Brown, Small and Banic took third in both events. Their 1:35.45 finish on Tuesday in the 200 medley was a season best, while their 1:27.96 finish on Wednesday in the 200 freestyle is the new fourth fastest time in program history.
With three days of the meet now under wraps, Tennessee head coach Matt Kredich has been happy with the way the Volunteers have competed through all of the heats.
“We had really good representation, I think, in every event,” Kredich said. “We had an A finalist in every event except for the women’s 200 free, but we had a B and a C finalist there. The most impressive thing to me is either every swimmer got faster or moved up, so we’re just competing really well.”
He also does not see any signs of them slowing down in the final two days of the championships.
“I’m thrilled with the energy level of our team,” Kredich said. “I think we’re competing with a lot of heart, but also using skills that we’ve been practicing all year and winning races with them.”
At the end of day three, Florida’smen’s team leads with 759.5 points, while Texas A&M’swomen’s team leads with 729.
Friday’s action starts at 10 a.m., with preliminaries for the 200 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke. Women’s platform preliminaries begin at 1 p.m., followed by the finals for the 200 fly, 100 back, 100 breast, women’s platform and 400 medley relay at 6.