March 19, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- Armed with a full complement of performers, the Georgia women's swimming and diving team will compete this week in the NCAA Championships.
The Lady Bulldogs will have the maximum 17 swimmers and two divers when they arrive at the IU Natatorium and the IUPUI Sports Complex in Indianapolis. The meet will run Thursday through Saturday.
"I want our ladies to truly appreciate this opportunity," Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. "They have the chance to compete for a national championship, and not every team gets to say that. They need to appreciate the situation they're in because 99 percent of all student-athletes will not be in this position. I'm just glad we're in the conversation. ... The feeling of excitement never leaves you when you think you have a shot. I can't wait to see how we perform."
The Lady Bulldogs have won five NCAA titles, but their last one came in 2005. Since then, Georgia has been the runner-up four times, including each of the last two seasons and three of the last four.
"Our last four teams had a chance, but this year might be just a little bit better chance," Bauerle said. "We're going in with numbers and that helps, especially if the people at 13, 14, 15, 16 can score, and I think we have that capability. ... I really want this group to feel what it's like to win a national championship. It's great to win the SECs, but it's even greater to win the NCAAs."
The Lady Bulldogs will have a lineup of seniors Kelsey Gaid, Megan Romano and Allison Schmitt; juniors Ann-Perry Blank, Jessica Graber, Melanie Margalis, Laura Ryan and Shannon Vreeland; sophomores Lauren Harrington, Maddie Locus, Jordan Mattern, Amber McDermott, Shannon O'Malley, Courtney Peters and Nicole Vernon; and freshmen Hali Flickinger, Brittany MacLean, Chantal Van Landeghem and Annie Zhu.
"We have high hopes for our team at the NCAAs, and I know we're going to give it everything we've got," said Schmitt, who earned five medals at the 2012 Olympics after taking a redshirt year. "We won at SECs with help from everyone. It was a real team effort. That's what we expect from each other at NCAAs. If we all swim our best, I feel like we will be in great contention for a national championship."
Schmitt has the nation's fastest time in the 200 freestyle this season, while the Lady Bulldogs boast the top efforts in the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relays. Romano is second in the 100 freestyle, Margalis is third and seventh respectively in the 200 and 400 individual medley, Zhu is fourth in the 200 breaststroke, Van Landeghem is fourth in the 50 freestyle, and McDermott is fifth and seventh respectively in the 500 and 1,650 freestyle.
ESPN3.com will stream the finals of the NCAAs on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ESPNU will air a highlights show at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27.
Since the inception of the NCAAs in 1982 for women's swimming and diving, the Lady Bulldogs have won four national titles - 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005. Only Stanford (eight), Texas (seven) and Auburn (five) have more championships. Georgia also has claimed 44 individual and 22 relay titles - all coming under Bauerle - at the national meet.
In addition to having depth at the 2013 NCAAs, the Lady Bulldogs boast several past champions. Schmitt won the 500 freestyle in 2009 and the 200 and 500 freestyle in 2010 and 2011, while Romano won the 200 freestyle in 2012. Schmitt, Romano, Margalis, Vreeland, Jordan and McDermott all have been members of NCAA-winning relays.