Auburn’s Maillard wins SEC title to open S&D Championship
SOURCE: AUBURN ATHLETICS
All it took was one event for the Auburn swim and dive program to make it 29 consecutive years with an SEC champion from either the men’s or women’s teams.
This year, it was senior Alison Maillard who kicked off the 2020 SEC Championships in Auburn with a first-place finish in the women’s 1-meter event Tuesday night. Maillard’s score of 364.15 points was not only a lifetime best but also a new school record.
“When I hit the water today, I knew I could do it,” Maillard said. “I just had to believe. I’m just pumped. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see how the week goes for Auburn. I’ve always wanted to do the ‘AU’ to my team, I’ve never experienced something like that.”
The “AU” chant with her teammates came on the podium after receiving her gold medal.
“We’re off to a really nice start,” Auburn head coach Gary Taylor said. “How can you ask for anything better out of Alison? She wins the gold for diving, sets a career-best, breaks the score record by thirty points, and puts on one of the best performances in the history of the NCAA.”
The Auburn women followed Maillard’s performance with a seventh-place finish in the 200 medley relay and then just missed the podium, taking fourth-place in the 800 freestyle relay. After the first day, the Tigers are currently in fifth place with 144 points.
Though there were no SEC champions from the men’s side Tuesday, they also started strong with 147 points on the first night and are currently fourth overall. Both relays finished top seven, and sophomore Conner Pruitt placed fifth in the 3-meter final for diving with 366.55 points.
Maillard’s championship performance Tuesday night was highlighted by her fifth dive, a reverse two-and-a-half somersault tuck, where she scored 70.50 points. She was solid on all of her dives, though, as she scored 51.75 points or more on all six dives.
“I’m ecstatic for her,” head diving coach Jeff Shaffer said. “It’s four years of hard work and knowing that she always had the ability to dive at that level and to see her finally put it all together was very rewarding.”
Maillard advanced to the finals after placing fourth in prelims with 295.10 points.
Freshmen Gretchen Wensuc and Ashlynn Sullivan both made their SEC Championship debut in prelims where they finished 13th and 29th respectively.
200 MEDLEY RELAY
Both the men’s and women’s 200 medley teams swam season-best times Tuesday night. The women’s team, which included Jewels Harris, Carly Cummings, Robyn Clevenger and AJ Kutsch, earned a B-cut time, finishing in 1:37.00.
“We came out in the 200 Medley Relay and put up easily a season best,” Taylor said. “I really felt like if we got into the 1:36.00s in that relay it would be a fantastic effort. We got 1:37.00 so you can’t knock on that door any more than we did right there.”
For Harris, it was a career-best time in the leadoff split. Junior Christian Ginieczki also led off the men’s relay with a career best in his split.
All three Auburn divers placed top 14 in the prelims of the men’s 3-meter competition. Pruitt led the way with 395.40 points to take fifth, but freshman Skip Donald (327.40) and junior Logan Andrews (316.80) each had a solid showing in their own right.
In the finals, Pruitt missed a couple dives and finished with 366.55 points.
“The placement was good tonight, but we gave two dives away,” Shaffer said. “He’s got to do a little better job on focusing and finishing his reverse two-and-a-half. But that was a tremendous contest as well, and the experience to be in that final is going to help him down the road.”
800 FREE RELAY
Though the Auburn women’s relay team just missed the podium in the 800 free relay, the foursome of Claire Fisch, Abbey Webb, Julie Meynen and Jessica Merritt qualified for the NCAA Championships with an A-cut time (6:59.38).
Led by sophomore Christian Sztolcman, who swam the second fastest 200 free time in school history to lead off, the men’s 800 free relay finished with a B-cut (6:19.57).
“Last year, we went 6:23.00. We’re basically four seconds faster this season,” Taylor said. “Your leadoff, Christian Sztolcman, comes in at 1:33.20, a time that always makes NCAAs. It was the second fastest performance in Auburn history by a young sophomore.”