By Steve Colquitt, Associate Sports Communications Director
After leading his Georgia swimming and diving team to another Southeastern Conference title, Coach Jack Bauerle joked that the only thing that went wrong at the meet was his part of the celebration.
Victorious teams traditionally jump into the pool together, followed by a school cheer or song. The head coaches, including Bauerle, jump in last. On Saturday in Knoxville, Bauerle decided to do a flip into the water -- with one tiny issue.
"I think I made it about three-quarters of the way on my flip," Bauerle said, still dripping wet from his plunge. "And I got water in my ear. Let's just say I would not have gotten any diving points."
Truth be told, the Lady Bulldogs garnered plenty of points on their own. Georgia rolled up 781 points to outdistance host Tennessee's 629.5. (That is the equivalent of a 25-point win in basketball.)
The title was the third straight for the Lady Bulldogs and the ninth in school history -- all coming under Bauerle. Three straight championships is the second-longest streak in school history, trailing only the five earned from 1997 to 2001.
"It was a great meet, and I could not be prouder of our ladies," Bauerle said. "It's always nice to get to hold that trophy on the last day. Winning a title in this conference is no small feat. Teams just keep fighting and fighting. That's what I like about our team. We have fighters too, and they don't back down from a challenge. They are a tough bunch. As a coach, you always want to see effort and consistency. That's what we have with this group. They deserve this title. This is a feeling that never gets old.
"It's nice to come back to Athens with the trophy. This is something these kids will never forget."
The Lady Bulldogs won six events during the four-day meet. Wendy Trott took the 1,650 freestyle, becoming the first woman in league history to claim the mile all four years. Megan Romano won the 100 and 200 freestyle. (Romano also placed second in the 100 backstroke, breaking the school record in the process.) Michelle McKeehan was victorious in the 200 breaststroke and Amber McDermott came in first in the 500 freestyle. Georgia additionally won the 800 freestyle relay with Shannon Vreeland, Melanie Margalis, Jordan Mattern and Romano.
After the meet, McDermott was chosen as the SEC Female Freshman of the Year.
"It was a great team effort," Bauerle said. "I'm not sure we had a bad swim, and you can't say that often. Most of the time, we were really good, even great. Everybody had a hand in it, too. That's the main thing in winning a championship. You have to have a lot of depth -- and we are fortunate that we do."
In addition to lapping the field, the Lady Bulldogs assaulted their own record book. Seventeen times in 13 events were top-10 efforts in school history, led by Romano's Georgia mark in the 100 backstroke. And of the 13 set in individual races, 10 were established by underclassmen.
The Bulldogs came in third, fighting off the host Volunteers for the spot. Martin Grodzki won the 500 and the 1,650 freestyle races, while Nic Fink swept the 100 and 200 breaststroke events, and Doug Reynolds claimed the 100 butterfly. Grodzki won the 1,650 freestyle for the third straight year, giving Georgia its eighth consecutive crown in the event. Reynolds became Georgia's first 100 butterfly winner since 1965 when Bo Holland won the event. After the meet, Fink was selected as the SEC Male Freshman of the Year.
Michael Arnold set the school record in the 50 freestyle, eclipsing Georgia's longest-standing mark. Allan Murray set the previous school mark in 1993. (Murray lives in the Bahamas, and Bauerle joked that he and Arnold should break the news to Murray in person.) Arnold, Fink, Reynolds and John Simmons also set the school record in the 200 medley relay. All told, 15 top-10 times were established in 13 events.
"Our men sometimes get overshadowed by our ladies, but they had a heck of a meet too," Bauerle said. "They really battled and gave us great effort. Some of our young guys really grew up at the meet. We're enjoying what's going on right now, and we feel like we have a bright future with our men's team."
The Lady Bulldogs will compete in the NCAA Championships March 15-17 in Auburn as they seek the program's fifth national title, while the Bulldogs will head to the NCAAs in Federal Way, Wash., March 22-24.
ESPNU will televise highlights from the SECs on a tape-delay basis. The men's meet will air Monday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m., and the women's meet will air Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m.
Georgia's teams will be back in action Saturday and Sunday at Gabrielsen Natatorium hosting the Bulldog Last Chance Meet.