Jan. 7, 2011
By Wes Todd
Assistant Media Relations Director
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina’s men’s swimming & diving team improved to 5-0 for the first time in school history with wins over Kentucky and College of Charleston on Friday, while the Gamecock women also defeated the Cougars and fell to the Wildcats in a thriller at the Blatt P.E. Center/Carolina Natatorium.
The 23rd-ranked Gamecock men downed Kentucky 189.5-110.5 to earn their second straight victory over the Wildcats and improve to 1-0 in the SEC. Carolina’s women fought to the final relay with Kentucky but came up on the short end of a 144-137 decision. South Carolina swept College of Charleston with a 251-47 men’s victory and a 236-57 triumph for the women.
Coming into the final race of the night for the women, Carolina held a precarious 133-131 lead with a dangerous Kentucky 400-yard freestyle relay team awaiting. The Wildcats pulled away early in the race and led by nearly two seconds at one point. Senior Bridget Halligan would put on a strong charge down the stretch and closed the gap, but the Wildcats pulled out the victory with a 3:26.21 to Carolina’s 3:27.63.
On the men’s side, it was all Gamecocks as the Carolina men posted victories over Kentucky in 11 of 16 events. Freshman Gerard Rodriguez was a standout for South Carolina, winning both the 200 and 500 freestyle and setting the pace for the victorious 400 free relay team. He posted a 1:39.11 in the 200 free, holding off teammate Michael Flach (1:39.93) for the win. Rodriguez then came back in the 500 free – swimming the event for the first time as a Gamecock – and earned a victory in 4:33.12, just ahead of sophomore Brooks Ross (4:33.41). The 400 free relay team of Rodriguez, Andrew Seiler, Alex Fitton and Flach capped off the night with a victory in 3:02.22.
Flach also earned an individual victory in the 100 butterfly, posting a 50.29 to hold off Kentucky’s Jon Keltner. He also swam the 100 free for the first time this year, finishing second in 46.17.
Junior Chris Kelly had a strong meet, winning the 200 backstroke in 1:48.80 and finishing second in the 100 back with a 51.23. The only faster backstroker on the day was sophomore Max Heinze, who won the 100 back in 50.56 and paced the 400 medley relay team of himself, Bobby Cave, Isaac Badillo and Fitton to an opening victory in 3:21.43.
Cave got a victory in the 200 breaststroke with a 2:04.48, and finished a close second in the 100 breast (56.99). Other swimming winners for the Carolina men were Ross in the 1000 free (9:22.04) and Collin Kaden in the 200 individual medley (1:54.14).
For the women, sophomore Whitney Avers had a strong meet with wins in the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly. She posted a season-best time of 4:58.31 in the 500 free to win going away, then came back with a 2:03.81 for another convincing victory in the 200 fly.
Freshman Rachael Schaffer once again had a strong performance with a victory in the 200 IM and runner-up finishes in the 200 fly and 200 breast. She remains undefeated in the IM events in dual meet competition after a 2:03.24 outpaced the field by two seconds (freshman Kelly Tannhauser was the runner-up in 2:05.66). She took second in the 200 fly behind Avers, and was a runner-up to fellow freshman Amanda Rutqvist in the 200 breast.
Jordan Gibbs earned her first win of the season in the 1000 freestyle, swimming a career-best 10:11.10 to outpace freshman Abby Galbreath by more than six seconds. Galbreath’s 10:17.40 was also a personal-best as a Gamecock. And Rutqvist earned the team’s other swimming victory with a 2:18.89 in the 200 breast.
The women’s meet was not without controversy. After confusion about the number of heats for each event and the proper swimmers in those heads, the entire field of South Carolina and Kentucky swimmers in the 100-yard breaststroke was disqualified for swimming in the incorrect heat, costing the Gamecocks significant points after a would-be victory by Rutqvist. Neither team was awarded points for the event.
In the diving well, the Gamecocks got men’s and women’s victories on the 1-meter board as Taryn Zack scored 299.00 to lead a 1-2 women’s finish with Courtney Forcucci (278.10). Rylan Ridenour took top honors in the men’s 1-meter event with a 358.30. Zack and Forcucci would go 2-3 in the 3-meter event, falling just short of Kentucky’s Lisa Faulkner. Likewise, Ridenour’s 379.40 on the 3-meter board could not overcome a strong performance by Kentucky’s Greg Ferrucci.
Carolina’s men are 5-0 (1-0 SEC) and the women are now 4-3 overall (1-2 SEC). Kentucky’s men moved to 3-5 overall (0-2 SEC) while the Wildcat women improved to 6-2 (1-1 SEC). Charleston’s men fell to 1-9 and the women to 3-8.
South Carolina will return to the competition pool next Saturday, Jan. 15, as the Gamecocks travel to Durham, N.C., to face the Duke Blue Devils. Queens University from Charlotte will also participate in the meet, which is set for a 2 p.m. start at the Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion.