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Aug. 2, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Eight South Carolina swimmers – four returnees, three alumni and one incoming freshman – are set to compete this week in the 2010 USA Swimming ConocoPhillips National Championships, which run Tuesday through Saturday in Irvine, Calif.

Gamecock returnees Michael Flach, Brooks Ross, Chris Kelly and Bridget Halligan will combine to swim in six individual events, while 2010 graduate Andy Atzhorn and 2009 grads Nick Walkotten and Kyle Cormier have a full slate of competitions of their own. Also competing in four events in the meet will be incoming freshman Rachael Schaffer of Baltimore, Md.

“It’s been an interesting summer with our training schedule and everything being moved around,” head coach McGee Moody said. “Thankfully, the construction at the Blatt stayed on schedule and we were able to get back in there with about four weeks to go until this meet.”

During the renovations to the pool deck and lighting system at the Carolina Natatorium in the Blatt P.E. Center, the team’s practices were relocated to the Strom Thurmond Health and Wellness Center. However, the pool at “The Strom” is not a full 50-meter pool – the distance at which this week’s meet will be contested – which forced the team to make some adjustments to its training regimen.

“We bumped up the yardage a little bit and made a few changes to what our normal training routine would be,” Moody said, “but we were lucky to get back in the long-course pool a few weeks ago. I think we’re ready, and I’m excited about this week and about what we’ll be able to do once the college season rolls around.”

Flach, Ross, Kelly and Atzhorn combined to hold the top Gamecock times in eight of the 14 individual events contested during the 2009-10 season, with Flach and Atzhorn combining to post NCAA `B’ cut times in five events. Flach advanced to the NCAA Championships, where he competed in the 500 free, 200 free and 200 butterfly. Halligan, meanwhile, steadily improved during the course of her junior campaign and scored for South Carolina in the 50 freestyle at SEC Championships, posting the fourth-fastest time in school history with a 22.88.

Walkotten and Cormier completed their Carolina careers with a trip to the NCAA Championships in 2009. Walkotten posted a sixth-place finish in the 200 butterfly and a 15th-place showing in the 100 fly to give South Carolina a 29th-place national finish that season. Schaffer, who swims for the powerful North Baltimore Aquatic Club, looks to be a force in the breaststroke and IM events for the Gamecocks this season, and she will compete in those disciplines at this week’s national meet.

A live webcast of the meet can be seen at with prelims beginning at noon ET each day and finals starting at 9 p.m. ET. Universal Sports will have live coverage of finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, and NBC Sports will air highlights from the week from 4-6 p.m. Saturday and 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday.

GAMECOCKS IN THE MEET (All events are long-course meters)
Tuesday, Aug. 3
Michael Flach – 400 freestyle
Andy Atzhorn – 400 individual medley
Rachael Schaffer – 200 individual medley

Wednesday, Aug. 4
Michael Flach – 200 freestyle, 200 butterfly
Kyle Cormier – 200 freestyle
Nick Walkotten – 100 backstroke

Thursday, Aug. 5
Rachael Schaffer – 100 breaststroke, 400 individual medley
Nick Walkotten – 100 butterfly
Bridget Halligan – 50 freestyle

Friday, Aug. 6
Kyle Cormier – 100 freestyle, 200 individual medley
Andy Atzhorn – 200 individual medley
Brooks Ross – 1500 freestyle
Atzhorn, Ross, Flach, Kelly – 800 freestyle relay

Saturday, Aug. 7
Chris Kelly – 200 backstroke
Andy Atzhorn – 200 backstroke, 200 breaststroke
Rachael Schaffer – 200 breaststroke