Oct. 24, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia-Florida rivalry will actually get started on Thursday.
Two days before their football counterparts square off in Jacksonville, the Georgia and Florida swimming and diving teams will compete at Gabrielsen Natatorium inside the Ramsey Center. The meet will begin at 3 p.m. and there is no cost for admission.
The Lady Bulldogs are off to a 2-0 start, including a 1-0 mark in the SEC, with road wins over Georgia Tech and Arkansas. The Bulldogs are 1-0 after knocking off the Yellow Jackets, and Thursday's meet will mark their conference opener. Florida's teams will be competing in their first dual meet of the year after opening with multi-team invitationals. The Bulldogs are No. 9 and the Gators are No. 1 in the first CSCAA rankings of the year. The first women's poll will be released next week.
"We always look forward to challenge of competing against Florida," Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. "They have great athletes, great coaches, great tradition. You know they'll stand up and battle you in every event and give you everything they've got. We're excited about this opportunity. Our kids have been training hard, and they can't wait to race in our home pool."
On Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs will be trying to extend their all-sports school record for consecutive home victories. Dating back to the 1995, Georgia has won 78 straight dual or tri meets. All-time, the Lady Bulldogs are 79-1 at Gabrielsen Natatorium, with the only loss coming to the Lady Gators.
"The winning streak is always in your mind whenever there is a home meet, especially when it's against a team like Florida," sophomore Meghan Faulkner said. "Opening against them will be tough because they won't hold back, but neither will we. Defending the winning streak is a goal we have set and I know we are all excited to start racing in our pool."
Hali Flickinger and Annie Zhu already have two NCAA provisional qualifying times each, Flickinger in the 200 butterfly and the 400 individual medley and Zhu in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Georgia also has B cuts from Melanie Margalis in the 100 breaststroke, Nicole Vernon in the 400 individual medley, and the 200 medley relay team of Megan Romano, Margalis, Lauren Harrington and Allison Schmitt. Ann-Perry Blank and Laura Ryan have Zone Championships qualifying scores in diving.
On the men's side, the Bulldogs and the Gators battled to a rare tie last season at Florida's Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium. In Bauerle's 30-plus years on deck, spanning nearly 600 meets, he'd had just one other tie, and it came with the Lady Bulldogs in the 1981-82 season.
"This is a meet that we've been looking forward to since last year's tie in Gainesville," sophomore Jared Markham said. "Florida is a very strong team, and this is going to be a great test to see where our guys are this season and what areas we can improve on before December. Hopefully we got the jitters out last week against Tech and Thursday will go as smooth as possible."
Nic Fink recorded a B-cut time in the 100 breaststroke in Atlanta. Ty Stewart earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after finishing first, second and third in three events against the Yellow Jackets.
Schmitt will be returning to competition in Gabrielsen Natatorium for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season. She redshirted last year to train for the Olympics, then won five medals (including three golds) in London. Georgia has seven Olympians in Schmitt, Shannon Vreeland and Andrew Gemmell of the United States, Brittany MacLean of Canada, Matias Koski of Finland, Yousef Alaskari of Kuwait and Ediz Yildirimer of Turkey. Florida also boasts seven Olympians as well as the 2012 U.S. men's coach, Gregg Troy.