Jan. 29, 2011
By Wes Todd
Assistant Media Relations Director
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 22 South Carolina men equaled the school record for single-season victories with a win over No. 16 Alabama, and the Gamecock women ensured a winning record as they downed the Crimson Tide as well in Saturday’s swimming and diving meet at the Blatt P.E. Center.
In a meet that came down to the final two races, Carolina’s men defeated Alabama 160-140 to pick up their 10th win of the season. The Gamecocks fell to No. 9 Georgia, 180.5-117.5. On the women’s side, Carolina earned their second SEC victory of the year, winning the final relay against the Tide to ensure a 158-142 win. The Gamecock women fell to the No. 2-ranked Lady Bulldogs, 178.5-119.5.
The Gamecock men finish the regular season 10-1 overall (2-1 SEC), the first winning record under fourth-year head coach McGee Moody and a huge turnaround from a 4-6 finish a year ago. The 10-win mark also matches the most wins in a season in school history, equaling the 1966 Gamecock squad that went 10-2 and finished fourth at the ACC Championships. Carolina’s women finish the regular season with a 7-6 mark (2-3 SEC), their first winning season since 2002.
Both meets with Alabama were undecided with two races to go. But a strong performance in the 400-yard individual medley put the men’s meet out of reach and all but assured a women’s victory with just the relay to go. With the Carolina men leading Alabama 142-122, a win would secure the meet for Carolina.
Enter sophomore Bobby Cave. In his first attempt at the 400 IM in his collegiate career, he posted a 4:00.58 – the team’s second-best time of the season – to outpace Alabama’s Andrew Wrist by .42 seconds to earn nine points and clinch the win for the Gamecocks. Junior Chris Kelly, who had been battling illness all week, put forth a valiant effort and took fifth place overall, third against Alabama, with a 4:02.44.
It was much the same in the women’s meet, but even closer. With Carolina leading Alabama 134-130, the last two races would be critical to the outcome. And as she has done all season, freshman Rachael Schaffer came through for the Gamecocks. She outraced four of the SEC’s top 10 in the event to earn the victory over both Georgia and Alabama swimmers, posting an NCAA `B’ cut time of 4:15.55 as she tracked down three of Georgia’s best and finished nearly six full seconds ahead of her nearest competitor from Alabama.
That win gave the Gamecocks a 147-136 lead, which necessitated at least a second-place finish against in the final relay. But the 400 freestyle relay team of Lauren Raczkowski, Kelly Tannhauser, Schaffer and Bridget Halligan did them one better, posting a 3:27.51 to win the race over Alabama’s top two squads and pick up the clinching 11 points. The Gamecocks were behind at the halfway mark of the race, but a blistering third leg from Schaffer and an inspired effort from Halligan – one of 10 seniors in her final home meet – gave Carolina a win by less than a second over the Crimson Tide.
Schaffer was outstanding throughout the day, as was fellow freshman Amanda Rutqvist. Rutqvist won both the 100 and 200 breastroke, posting a 1:03.43 in the 100 and a 2:14.90 in the 200, outpacing some of the SEC’s best from Georgia and Alabama. Schaffer was the overall runner-up in the 200 breast with a 2:17.12 after a strong closing 25 yards, and she took fourth overall (second vs. Alabama) in the 100 breast with a 1:04.20.
A big contributor to the Gamecock women’s win was the performance of the distance corps. Abby Galbreath and Jordan Gibbs both beat Alabama’s top swimmers in the 1000 free with Galbreath’s 10:18.89 and Gibbs’ 10:22.36. And sophomore Whitney Avers came up big in the 500 free, taking the top spot against Alabama with a 4:58.94, just missing a season-best time. Gibbs took third vs. Alabama with a 5:00.09, a season-best time.
But a bigger contributor to the women’s winning effort was junior diver Courtney Forcucci. She took the top spot on the 1-meter board with a 311.05, then came back to get another win on the 3-meter board with a 330.35. Senior Taryn Zack, competing at home for the final time, finished third overall (second vs. Alabama) on the 3-meter board with a 303.55.
Halligan made the most of her final home meet with a runner-up finish in the 50 freestyle in 23.73 – outpacing four Georgia swimmers – and a fifth-place finish in the 100 free (second vs. Alabama) with a 52.57.
In the men’s meet, Cave was a major catalyst for the Gamecocks in several events. He took a victory in the 100 breaststroke with a 56.27, outpacing Georgia’s Bill Cregar and Alabama’s Devan Terry for the win, with Collin Kaden in fourth place with a 57.35. In the 200 breast, Cave was second overall but first against Alabama with a 2:01.76, finishing just .40 behind Cregar and outpacing Alabama’s Cameron Conners.
Sophomore Michael Flach battled through illness to put together another good performance as well. He took second place in the 500 free – a showdown of the SEC’s top four mid-distance swimmers – with a 4:27.42, as Gamecock swimmers took the top four spots in the meet with Alabama. Matt Columbus (4:34.07), Gerard Rodriguez (4:36.00) and Brooks Ross (4:36.54) went 2-3-4 against Alabama (5-6-7 overall) in the race.
Ross was the Gamecocks’ top finisher in the 1000 free with a 9:16.06, outpacing Alabama All-American Catalin Cosma to take third place overall and first against the Tide. Matt Columbus took fifth place overall with a 9:25.17. In the 200 free, Gerard Rodriguez led a 2-3-4-5 Gamecock finish with a 1:38.43; Flach (1:39.08), Alex Fitton (1:39.56) and Tim Berens (1:39.77) took the next three spots to earn big points for Carolina.
And on the boards, sophomore Rylan Ridenour earned one of the biggest wins of his career with a 380.05 in 3-meter diving to take the victory. He finished second overall on the 1-meter board with a 328.70, finishing just behind Alabama’s Adam Booher.
The Gamecock swimmers will now begin their taper phase of training as they prepare for next month’s SEC Championships, which run Feb. 16-19 in Gainesville, Fla. However, there is little rest for the Gamecock divers. Assistant coach Allison Brennan, along with Forcucci and Ridenour, will compete at the USA Diving Winter National Championships in Iowa City, Iowa, beginning on Sunday. The full squad will continue to train for the SEC Diving Championships, also held in Gainesville from Feb. 11-13.