The 2022 SEC Swim and Dive Championships concluded with a Lady Vol swim and dive team win for the second time in the past three years. They won the conference with an overall score of 1,313.5 points behind four gold medals from freshman Ellen Walshe.
“This is an incredibly special and unique team with a number of different components,” director of swim and dive Matt Kredich said. “It is almost like alchemy; you put all of these pieces together for something that is greater than the pieces themselves. The depth of this team is something that we felt we obviously needed in order to win this championship. I am so impressed with every person on our roster.”
The third-ranked Lady Vols had a successful week at the Championships. They won a combined 17 medals – seven gold, six silver, and four bronze. In addition to the hardware, Tennessee had 53 athletes qualify for the events of the final throughout the week, with 30 A final marks.
“Every athlete scored in a B final or higher. That is extraordinary depth,” Kredich said. “Maybe the most extraordinary thing about that is there are people that did not make this team that we also feel had the ability to score in B finals and some even in A finals. Our depth on this team is historic and having the ability to do it does not always mean you are going to do it. I am so impressed with the fact that every person on this roster has made a significant contribution in terms of points.”
The freshman Walshe had an outstanding week for the Lady Vol team. Walshe won a combined seven medals, four of those gold. She was named the SEC Swimmer of the Meet and was awarded the Commissioner’s Trophy as she was the top overall points scorer.
Walshe put up incredible times not only at the meet, but in the Lady Vols’ and the SEC Championship’s history books.
On Thursday, Walshe won the 400 IM while breaking the school record with a time of 4:01.53. Not long after that victory, she went on to win the 100 fly with a time of 50.34. She then won the 200 IM with a 1:52.97, making her way onto the records with the second-fastest time in UT history.
In total, Walshe scored 96 points for the Lady Vols in individual events alone.
Walshe was the first swimmer in the history of the SEC to win the 100 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM in the same meet. She is one of three Lady Vols to ever win three individual events in a single SEC Championship, and the first freshman to ever do so.
Walshe’s time in the 400 IM was marked as the fastest time by a freshman in SEC history and was ranked the seventh-best time by a freshman in NCAA history.
In addition to her individual feats, Walshe was also a member of the 800 free relay – which won gold – and the four silver medal lineups, which include the record-setting 400 medley relay.
In the gold medal 800 freestyle relay, alongside Walshe was Julia Mrozinski, Trude Rothrock, and Tjasa Pintar. Their time was the third-best in program history. Mrozinski’s leadoff 200 free split in the relay with the time of 1:43.21 was a new personal best for her, and moved her into a tie for fourth in the UT record books.
Mrozinski became the first Lady Vol to win the 500 free during the meet. Her time broke the Lady Vols’ record with a time of 4:35.95. She finished fifth overall in the 200 free behind fellow freshman Brooklyn Douthwright, who won silver in the event with a mark of 1:43.45.
Sophomore Mona McSharry brought home a pair of medals in her breaststroke events. She took home the gold in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.50 to earn her first SEC gold medal of her career and was the first Lady Vol swimmer to win the event since 2012.
McSharry also took third in the 200 breast with a time of 2:07.29. She was also a member of the silver medal-winning 200 free, 200 medley, and 400 medal relays. In total, McSharry won five medals throughout the meet.
Kristen Stege defended her SEC title in the 1650 free and won the event with a UT record setting time of 15:42.37. This marked the first time a Lady Vol has won back-to-back events since 1990-91. Her time marked the fastest in the nation and her 1000 free split time of 9:27.69, which set another program record.
The Lady Vols posted 26 new top-10 times in program history as well as five new school records over the course of the week, and what made it extra special was where it happened – their home, the Allan Jones Aquatic Center.
"The most special part of this whole thing is that we were able to do this from our home pool at Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center, a place where we felt was our refuge during the lockdown of the past two years,” Kredich said. “It has been a celebration of our ability to be a team and compete at the highest level."