Nov. 15, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. --- The date was Nov. 8, 1995.
The Atlanta Braves had just won the World Series. "Seinfeld" was the nation's top-rated show, and the "No soup for you" episode originally aired a week earlier. 1995 also brought the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the introduction of the George Foreman Grill and the inaugural X Games. "Toy Story" was the No. 1 movie, a gallon of gas cost about $1.25, Bill Clinton was President of the United States, and the University of Georgia did not have softball, soccer or equestrian teams.
Georgia, however, did have swimming and diving, and the men's and women's teams had just moved into their new, state-of-the-art facility: Gabrielsen Natatorium inside the Ramsey Center. Two meets into the 1995-96 season, the Lady Bulldogs were a modest 1-1 in their new pool. Then, Nov. 8, 1995, rolled around. Georgia dispatched Emory 158-121, beginning what has turned into a home winning streak the likes of which are rarely seen.
Beginning with that day in 1995, the Lady Bulldogs have won 75 consecutive dual/tri-meets at Gabrielsen Natatorium -- one shy of the school record of 76 set by men's tennis between 1968 and 1972 under Coach Dan Magill (a swimming letterman from 1940-42.). The No. 1-ranked Lady Bulldogs can tie the record on Wednesday against, interestingly enough, Emory. The teams will square off at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
"We're proud of the wins, for sure, but the fact that it spans 16 years is what we're proud of more than anything else," said Georgia coach Jack Bauerle, who is in his 33rd year overseeing the Lady Bulldogs and his 29th year piloting the Bulldogs. "A streak like this makes you stop and reflect on the student-athletes who were here beforehand. You go through a four-year span and you think, 'What a great group. They won an awful lot.' Well, we've done that four times. We have ladies on the team now who were two years old when we started this streak. That puts it in perspective. It's certainly something we're proud of. It means our kids have been tough all the time."
"Anytime we have a home meet, it's in the back of our minds," said senior Michelle McKeehan. "It's a real point of pride for our team. It means a lot to us to be able to continue the tradition. The swimmers and divers who came before us left a legacy, and we have to show respect to them and what they did. It's an honor to be a part of this. It's something special."
Bauerle said Magill, his longtime friend and mentor, is expected to address the team on Wednesday. Bauerle and Magill play tennis from time to time, and Bauerle's youngest son, Magill, is named for the coaching legend.
"This means a lot to me because it's Coach's record," Bauerle said. "He's been a mentor to me since I arrived in 1970 as a swimmer. It means an awful lot to be a part of something that Coach Magill belongs to, too."
The Lady Bulldogs will enter Wednesday's meet led by Wendy Trott, who owns the nation's fastest times in the 500 and 1,000 freestyle this year. Megan Romano and Melanie Margalis lead the Southeastern Conference in the 200 freestyle and the 200 breaststroke, respectively.
On the men's side, Will Freeman leads the country in the 1,000 freestyle, while Jameson Hill tops the SEC in the 200 freestyle.
The Lady Bulldogs are 4-0, including 2-0 in the SEC. They have won 17 straight dual meets overall and are 50-1 in their last 51 head-to-head competitions. The Bulldogs are 2-1-1 overall and 0-1-1 in the SEC.