Swimming & Diving Sets Sights on Podium at SEC's
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The LSU Swimming and Diving program will begin the five-day Southeastern Conference Championships on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the Texas A&M Student Recreation Center Natatorium in College Station, Texas.
Live results and live video links can be found on LSUSports.net's Swimming and Diving schedule page. The SEC Swimming and Diving Championships will air live on ESPN3.com on Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. (CT). The meet will air on tape delay on ESPNU on March 4, with the women's meet beginning at 3 p.m. (CT) and the men's meet beginning at 4:30 p.m. (CT).
"We have trained all year for this meet," Swimming Coach Dave Geyer said. "There is a team component to it because we want to represent LSU to the best we can, but we also want individuals to swim their best times and qualify for the NCAA Championships. I think we all just want to get out there tomorrow. There are a lot of smiles and a lot of fast things going on in the water. Physically and mentally, we are in a great spot for this meet."
Both the LSU men and women's teams are in a fantastic position to drop significant times and string together career bests at the meet after an impressive dual meet and invitational season.
"We've looked forward to this part of our championship season all year long and have had tremendous preparation," Diving Coach Doug Shaffer said. "I believe that if the athletes go out and do what they are capable of doing, the results will take of themselves."
Geyer, in his third year as co-head coach and seventh season with the program, and Shaffer, in his third-year as co-head coach and 11th with the program, have guided both the men and women's teams to consecutive top-five finishes at the conference meet.
"You think it would get easier every year, but the anxiety and the excitement that comes along with this meet is unmatched," Geyer said. "There is no other meet like this in the country. You have 12 men's teams and 10 women's teams in a combined format. There are a lot of fans and athletes. This is what we have worked for all year. It is the athletes' moment now."
Last season, the men's team totaled 426 points, which was over 160 points higher than the 2010-11 team. The fifth-place finish the past two campaigns marked the first consecutive top-five finishes since the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons for LSU.
The Tigers return multiple finalists and medalists from last year's meet. Senior Craig Hamilton returns to SEC's with his sights on another podium finish after last year's bronze medal in the mile. The Edinbugrh, Scotland native swam a then-career best mark of (14:58.11) at SEC's, which he later shattered for the new program record in the mile (14:45.94) at the NCAA Championships.
Fellow senior Andrei Tuomola paces LSU in the sprint events and the 100 breaststroke. The Finland native posted LSU's third-best all-time 100 breast mark of 53.82 in a bronze medal swim last year. Tuomola will look to use last years' experience, where he won the consolation finals of the 50 free (19.68) and the 100 free (43.65) after narrowly misfiring in the prelims, to medal in multiple events.
Junior diver Daniel Helm became LSU's 13th NCAA All-American on the platform after a 12th place finish and a score of 324.50 at the national meet. The Beaverton, Ore., native earned All-SEC Second Team honors after claiming a silver medal on the one-meter springboard (376.55). At the Tennessee Diving Invitational earlier this season, Helm scored his career best of 369.90 on the platform.
Sophomore Frank Greeff earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors as the highest freshman finisher in the 200 butterfly (1:45.03) and for his bronze medal performance in the event. The South Africa native has already notched NCAA provisional marks in both the 100 fly (48.16) and the 200 fly (1:46.28).
Sophomore Michael Young was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after taking sixth in the 100 backstroke (48.16), the highest finish for a freshman in the event. The Australian was named SEC Male Swimmer of the Week for his pair of victories in the 100 back and 200 back in a dual win over Alabama in the beginning of the season.
Similarly, the women's team has enjoyed the finest two-year run within the conference since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons after back-to-back fifth place finishes. Last year, the Lady Tigers accumulated 347 points at the conference meet.
Senior Sara Haley returns as a two-time medalist in the 200 butterfly and is LSU's record holder in the event. The El Dorado Hills, Calif., native broke LSU's 200 fly record (1:56.67) and took bronze at SEC's last year. Haley has qualified for the NCAA Championships the past two years well.
Junior Torrey Bussey, LSU's record holder in the 200 breast and 200 individual medley, captured eighth in the 200 IM (1:58.53) at last year's SEC meet and won the consolation final of the 100 breast (1:01.00). The Cary, N.C., native has qualified for the NCAA Championships the last two seasons.
Sophomore diver Alex Bettridge became Shaffer's sixth SEC Freshman Diver of the Year and was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team after earning a bronze medal on the three-meter with a then-program record of 366.85. She also finished sixth on the one-meter with a total of 306.30. The Austin, Texas native went on to earn NCAA Honorable-Mention All-American Honors after a 15th place finish on the three-meter at NCAA's.
LSU also boasts a number of underclassmen and freshmen that have shown the ability to take their game to the next level in this year's postseason. Junior diver Sean McKinney and freshman diver Cassie Weil have both broken program records in the early portion of the season.
McKinney shattered LSU's three-meter record with a score of 415.50 at the Auburn Diving Invitational. The Springfield, Va., native has notched his career bests on all three boards in the early portion of this season.
Weil set LSU's three-meter record in her first collegiate meet with a score of 372.68 in a dual with Auburn. The Hillsboro, Ore., native was named the SEC Female Diver of the Week for that performance. Weil also totaled LSU's third best all-time platform score of 289.00 in a quad victory over Houston, Rice and Tulane.
"It is just like I told them in our final practice before SEC's," Diving Coach Doug Shaffer said of his divers. "I was proud of what they had done all year long with their dedication and their willingness to make changes, and that they are ready. We have the numbers to show that with what they have done all year long, they are ready to compete."
In addition to the young divers and returning upperclassmen not listed above, freshman Gabe Rooker, junior Ricardo Alvarado Jimenez, junior Michael Saco, sophomore Amber Carter, junior Rainey White and a plethora of women's freshmen are poised to do big things at the meet.
Head to LSUsports.net/fancage to stay connected with the teams through Facebook and Twitter.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
Tuesday, Feb. 19
Diving: Men's 1-meter (prelims) -- 11 a.m.
Diving: Women's 3-meter (prelims) -- 1:30 p.m.
Diving: Men's 1-meter (finals) -- 5:30 p.m.
200 Medley Relay (finals)
Diving: Women's 3-meter (finals)
800 Free Relay (finals)
Wednesday, Feb. 20
500 Free (prelims) -- 10 a.m.
200 IM (prelims)
50 Free (prelims)
Diving: Women's 1-meter (prelims) -- 1 p.m.
200 Free Relay (finals)-- 6 p.m.
Diving: Women's 1-meter (finals)
500 Free (Finals)
200 IM (Finals)
50 Free (Finals)
Thursday, Feb. 21
400 IM (prelims)-- 10 a.m.
100 Fly (prelims)
200 Free (prelims)
Diving: Men's 3-meter (prelims) -- 1:30 p.m.
400 IM (finals) -- 6 p.m.
100 Fly (finals)
Diving: Men's 3-meter (finals)
200 Free (finals)
Friday, Feb. 22
200 Fly (prelims) -- 10 a.m.
100 Back (prelims)
100 Breast (prelims)
Diving: Women's Platform (prelims) -- 1 p.m.
400 Medley Relay (finals) -- 6 p.m.
Diving: Women's Platform (finals)
200 Fly (Finals)
100 Back (Finals)
100 Breast (Finals)
Saturday, Feb. 23
100 Free (prelims) -- 10 a.m.
200 Back (prelims)
200 Breast (prelims)
Diving: Men's Platform (prelims) -- 1 p.m.
1650 Free (prelims) -- time TBD
1650 Free (finals) -- 6 p.m.
100 Free (finals)
200 Back (finals)
200 Breast (finals)
Diving: Men's Platform (finals)
400 Free Relay (finals)