Athens, Ga.- The Auburn men claimed its record 14th-consecutive Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving title Saturday at the Gabrielsen Natatorium hosted by the University of Georgia. The 14 straight league titles broke the previous record of 13 in a row, held by Florida from 1956-68.
"Wow, this one was a tough one," head coach Brett Hawke said.
"Florida has a great team and we had to fight hard right to the end. We knew that our strengths would end up carrying us through. Winning four of the five relays this week is a huge highlight."
Auburn won with 784 points, while Florida finished second with 765 points. It marked the ninth consecutive year that the Tigers and Gators have finished 1-2 in the SEC meet.
"Florida is very well coached and every year is going to be a battle," Hawke said. "But, our team knows all about Rowdy Gaines and the dynasty that David Marsh built. They know the great history Auburn has. We don't chase the number of championships, just focus on winning each year like the teams before us have done."
The league crown was also Auburn 16th overall league title, all coming over the last 17 years. The Auburn women finished third with 568 points, the 14th year in a row that the Tigers have finished third or better at the conference championships. Georgia claimed the women's team title.
Leading Florida by 13 points entering the final event of the meet, the foursome of Adam Brown, Christopher Fox, Kohlton Norys and Gideon Louw, led from start to finish in the 400 free relay, securing the team title for the Tigers. The group won in an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 2:49.63, to hold off the Gators who finished second in 2:49.95.
"We knew we just had to finish, but we wanted to come out on top,"Louw said of the race. "Winning this for the team means everything and we're so proud to extend the Auburn legacy."
Auburn led Florida entering the evening session, however, Florida overtook the lead after the 1,650 freestyle and 200 backstroke, holding a slim four point advantage.
The Tigers regained the team lead for good in the next event, the 100 freestyle, behind Louw's first place finish, coupled with third and sixth-place finishes by Brown (42.92) and Fox (43.69). Louw touched the wall in 42.36.
"Auburn prides itself on being the best sprinters in the country,"
Louw said. "I'm honored to follow in the shoes of greats like Coach Hawke, Fred Bousquet, Cesar Cielo and Matt Targett. It was a great swim and I'm so proud of how this team has fought."
Auburn swept the men's and women's 100 freestyle as Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace won in 47.93. It was the seventh consecutive title for the men in 100 free at SEC's and first for the women since 2004.
Vanderpool-Wallace's win was her second SEC individual title of the meet, adding to her 100 butterfly title Friday. Hannah Riordan claimed seventh in 49.53.
"It is an awesome feeling," Vanderpool-Wallace said after the win. "Last year, I came in second in the event, so finally winning the title is a great way to end my individual races at the meet.
Auburn extended its lead in the men's standings to 39 points after the 200 breaststroke thanks to junior Adam Klein's second place finish and freshman Stuart Ferguson, who claimed seventh. Klein touched in 1:55.68, while Ferguson recorded a 1:58.95. Michael Silva added to the Tigers' scoring, winning the consolation finals in 1:58.12
Tyler McGill was sixth in the 200 fly in 1:44.04. Florida, however, closed the gap in the team competition to 13 points thanks to three top-five finishers in the 300 fly, which was the second to last event of the meet.
Junior Vennie Dantin finished second on the women's platform with a score of 311.15. Overall, the Auburn divers collected three conference titles and all four qualified for each event final.
"I couldn't be more proud of this diving team's efforts throughout the entire meet," head diving coach Jeff Shaffer said.
"We won three SEC titles, set a new SEC record and it's very rewarding to know that their hard work has paid off."
The foursome of Hannah Riordan, Ava Ohlgren, Melissa Marik and Vanderpool-Wallace took third in the 400 freestyle relay in a time of 3:15.26.
Auburn had three of the top seven finishers in the men's 200 backstroke and was led by senior Pascal Wollach's third place finish in 1:41.74. Kohlton Norys (1:42.91) was fifth, while Andrew Mitchell
(1:44.13) took seventh.
In the 1,650 freestyle, freshman Katie Gardocki finished seventh in 16:17.20. On the men's side, senior William Dove and freshman Chris Krammer finished 10th and 11th, respectively in times of 15:31.53 and 15:32.35.
Marik was the Tigers' top finisher in the women's 200 back, touching in seventh place with a time of 1:58.56. Ohlgren was Auburn's top finisher in the 200 butterfly, as the senior was sixth in 1:57.32.
Diving coach Jeff Schaffer was named the SEC Male Diving Coach of the Year, senior Kelly Marx was named SEC Male Diver of the Year, and Thad Ellis was named SEC Male Freshman Diver of the Year. Marx also was one of three competitors to earn the SEC's Commissioner's trophy for high points scorer for the meet.
Complete SEC Championships results are available at www.georgiadogs.com.
Auburn will next compete at the NCAA Championships in March. The women's will compete March 18-20 in West Lafayette, Ind., while the men's championships will be held in Columbus, Ohio, March 25-27.