Feb. 24, 2004
Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams returns to the pool this weekend as the Gamecocks compete in the 2004 SEC Championships at the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Ga. Now in the fifth season under head swimming coach Don Gibb, the Gamecock swimmers look to record personal bests and earn postition towards possible berths in the 2004 NCAA Championships.
“I think we have steadily been getting better each week and we’re right where we need to be as we head into this year’s SEC Championships,” said USC head swimming coach Don Gibb. “We are healthy and our team has done the work and put themselves in position for a good week. I’m really excited to see what we can accomplish this weekend. The SEC Championships is a great environement with the fastest times in the nation. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for our team to compete in. More NCAA standards are met at this meet than any other conference in the U.S. We have several athletes we hope to get into the NCAA meet this weekend. “
Preliminary competition begins on Wednesday morning with the 50 freestyle, 400 individual medley and 100 backstroke. The men’s divers will compete in the three-meter with the women’s squad on the one-meter.
Leading the way in freestyle for the men’s squad is Tamas Szucs, a former SEC champion in the 200 freestyle in 2001 and also Carolina’s top performer in the 500 freestyle. Szcus finished as an honorable mention All-American last year in the 200 freestyle.
South Carolina’s top sprint freestyle perfomer is senior Ed Murphy. Murphy placed 14th in the 50 freestyle two years ago at the SEC Championships and will be a factor in the 50 and 100 freestyle this year. Murphy went 20.50 at the Auburn Invite and 44.97 at the Auburn Invite for his top times this year.
Sophomore Tamas Bathazi and freshman newcomer Colby Mack look to make an impact with Szucs in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Bathazi placed 19th at last year’s SEC Championships and Mack is a former Florida HS state champion in both events. Sophomore Reid Duff secured personal best times from the 50-200 last year at the SEC Championships and looks to be a performer in the sprints and relays for USC.
Mike and Tim Farrington will lead the Gamecocks in the 500 and 1650 freestyle. With a year under their belt, the sophomore brothers look to improve on their finishes last season at the SEC Championships
South Carolina looks to be strongest in this event with several top performers in the sprint events. Leading the way for the women’s squad is senior Jennifer VanAssen, who went 1:46.07 in the 200 freestyle at the Auburn Invitational in Decemeber, a personal best, school record and currently the second fastest time in the nation. VanAssen has qualifed for the US Olympic Time Trials in the 100 and 200 freestyle and will compete from the 50-200 at this year’s SEC Championships.
Juniors Heather Skaggs and Carolynn McHugh and senior Ashleigh Bastak round out a top sprint group that will look to finish strong in the 200 freestyle relay. All three along with VanAssen swam their fastest times of the year at the Auburn Invitational. Skaggs holds Carolina’s top time in the 50 freestyle at 22.99 and will compete for a spot in the finals of the 50 free. McHugh went 23.25 and Bastak went 23.55 and will look to reach one of the two finals of the 50 freestyle.
Senior co-captain Bronwyn Dedekind and sophomore Haley Skaggs will compete with VanAssen in the 200 freestyle. Dedekind narrowly missed a spot in the NCAA Championships after finishing 12th in the 200 freestyle and as a member of the second place 800 freestyle relay team that set a school record. Dedekind looks to be a contender in both the 200 and 500 freestyle this year. Skaggs, younger sister of Heather, competed at last year’s NCAA Championshpips and will look to continue her sophomore success.
The Gamecocks have several newcomers in the distance freestyle events. Freshmen Anna-Kate Clanton, Kaelon May and Meredith Ruka will swim for USC in the 500 and 1650 freestyle.
Senior co-captain Lir Derieg competes in his final SEC Championships with experience under his belt in both the 100 and 200 backstroke. Derieg holds the school’s 10th best times in both events and was a 16th place finisher in the 200 backstroke two years ago.
Heather Skaggs and Bronwyn Dedekdind have been 1-2 in both 100 and 200 backstroke for Carolina this year. Skaggs has been as fast as 56.49 in this event this year and was a former high school state champion in Florida in the backstroke.
Senior Istvan Bathazi and sophomore Justin Kata continue to lead Carolina in this event. Kata swam a personal best at last year’s SEC Championships in the 100 breast and went 58.02 at this year’s Auburn Invite for his top time.
Newcomers Kendel Fiorentino and Aunya Nance will team up with senior Christina Hong in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Nance holds the squad’s top time in the 100 with Fiorentino at the top in the 200 breast.
Josh Parkin, Lir Derieg and Tamas Bathazi figure to be contenders for a spot in the night competition in both the 100 and 200 butterfly. Parkin was 18th at the SEC Championships in last year’s 100 butterfly with a personal best of 49.24. Derieg was 18th in the 200 butterfly and Bathazi was 21st in the 200 butterfly. With last year behind, all three look to advance further for USC.
Heather Skaggs, Carolynn McHugh and Meagan Johnson are the leaders for USC. Skaggs and McHugh have been at their best in the 100 butterfly with Johnson a top contributor in the 200 butterfly
Two-time Olympian for Hungary and two-time honorable mention All-American Istvan Bathazi is the leader for USC in the 200 and 400 individual medley. Bathazi is coming off a fouth place finish at this month’s USA Nationals in the 400 IM. Bathazi has twice finished ninth and won the consolation final at the NCAA Championships. Bathazi was fourth two years ago in the 400 IM at the SEC Championships and is a former European champion in the event.
Women Freshman Kendel Fiorentino and junior Carolynn McHugh have been the top competitors for USC in the 200 and 400 IM this year. Fiorentino set her top time in the 200 IM at the Auburn Invite and will push for a personal best in this event this weekend.
Men South Carolina returns all three men’s divers from last year including Andy Bradley who earned All-American honors on both boards including a national runner-up finish on the one-meter at the NCAA Championships. Bradley, a junior who placed fourth in both the one-meter and three-meter boards at last year’s NCAA Championships, looks to be a contender for his first SEC title on both boards.
Junior Dean Emmerton was 11th on the one-meter and 12th on the three-meter at last year’s NCAA Championships. A National Champion in South Africa, Emmerton will compete for a spot for the first time in the finals of both boards.
Sophomore Ian Balman competed in his first SEC Championships last year and was 16th on both the one-meter and three-meter boards.
South Carolina brings in a deep squad on the women’s side with four divers expectected to conribute on both the one-meter and three-meter boards for USC. All-American returnee junior Lauren King is back and looks to be a factor on the one-meter board. King finished fourth on the one-meter at the SEC Championships and seventh at the NCAA Championships.
Junior Holly Hodges is back at the SEC Championships after redshirting last year due to injury. Hodges placed second two years ago on the three-meter board as well as fifth on the one-meter board. Hodges earned honorable mention All-American as well two years ago with a ninth place finish on the one-meter board.
Junior Allison Brennan reached the finals on both one-meter and three-meter at last year’s SEC Championships and looks to be among the group again. Brennan was fifth on the one-meter and eighth on the three-meter last season. Brennan placed fourth this summer at the 2003 US Nationals and was a member of the World University Games team.
Freshman Lyndsey Havens is competing in her first SEC Championships. Havens was a Kentucky HS state champion as well as a National HS All-American.
Carolina won a SEC championship last year on the three-meter board as Tracey Richardson took the top honor for USC. Richardson is redshirting this year as she prepares to compete for a spot on the 2004 Great Britain Olympic Team.