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Feb. 17, 2011

Thursday Prelims Results

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By Wes Todd
Assistant Media Relations Director

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rachael Schaffer shattered the school record in the 200 individual medley, Michael Flach advanced to the championship finals of the 500-yard freestyle, and 11 Gamecocks posted NCAA `B’ cut times in Thursday’s preliminaries at the 2011 SEC Swimming Championships, being held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium.

The Gamecocks will have five swimmers in tonight’s finals – Flach and Schaffer in the championship finals of their respective events, and Gerard Rodriguez, Collin Kaden and Bridget Halligan in their respective consolation finals.

“Our guys in the 500 free really got it going for us this morning,” head coach McGee Moody said. “We had Mike in the top 8 and Gerard in the top 16, but our two other guys just missed the finals. But that group really set the tone for everything – they sent the message to the rest of the team that we’re gearing up to swim fast today.”

Flach, the defending SEC bronze medalist in the 500 free, posted a season-best time of 4:19.46 – .09 seconds shy of his career-best – and will be the fourth seed for tonight’s championship final. He will be joined by Rodriguez, whose time of 4:25.44 earned him the 14th qualifying position and a spot in the consolation finals. Just missing the finals were sophomores Matt Columbus (4:26.89) and Brooks Ross (4:26.97), who both posted NCAA `B’ cuts as they swam career-best times in the event.

Freshman Rachael Schaffer destroyed the school record in the 200 IM, posting a 1:57.99 to top Amanda Dunnigan’s two-year-old record by just under three seconds. She was the fifth qualifier in the morning preliminaries, earning a spot in tonight’s championship finals. Two other Gamecocks just missed the finals as freshmen Amanda Rutqvist (2:01.72) and Abby Galbreath (2:01.77) swam the third- and fourth-fastest times in school history, respectively, both earning NCAA `B’ cut times in the event. Freshman Kelly Tannhauser (2:02.46) and junior Aileen Atzhorn (2:04.81) posted personal-bests, and freshman Lauren Rosenberg clocked a 2:10.26 in her SEC Championship individual debut.

“Rachael had an amazing swim; really proud of her getting the school record,” Moody said. “But we know she can go even faster tonight. She went 2:03 at the Nike Cup, then went three seconds faster in the finals. We could see something really special tonight.”

In the men’s 200 IM, sophomore Collin Kaden will make his first finals appearance as he posted a 1:48.30 – the fifth-fastest time in school history and an NCAA provisional qualifier – to earn the 15th qualifying spot and a spot in the consolation finals tonight. Junior Chris Kelly was the first alternate, just missing a finals spot with a 1:48.55, also an NCAA `B’ cut and a career-best. James Crawford swam a 1:51.40 in the prelims, and Ryan Connolly posted a career-best time of 1:51.88.

Senior Bridget Halligan will return to the consolation finals of the 50 freestyle for the second straight year as she clocked a career-best time of 22.87 seconds in the preliminaries this morning. Halligan was the 12th qualifier of the preliminary round and recorded her first NCAA `B’ cut of the season. Lauren Rackowski (23.73), Megan Sparks (23.69), Shaylyn Blake (24.13), Taylor Josserand (24.47) and Mallory Cage (25.31) all posted personal-best marks as well. Andrew Seiler was the top Gamecock in the men’s 50 free with a 20.61; Alex Fitton (20.66), John Metts (21.04), Rory Grigull (21.11), Isaac Badillo (21.16), Brett Sexton (21.16) and Jay Warner (21.20) also competed in the event.

Lindsey Olson led the women’s 500 freestyle contingent with an NCAA `B’ cut time of 4:52.26 to finish third in her heat and 22nd overall. Jordan Gibbs (4:52.85) and Whitney Avers (4:54.86) both posted career-bests to finish 25th and 26th, respectively, and Stephanie Hellenga (4:58.64) made the most of her final trip to the SEC Championships by shaving more than nine seconds off her career-best. Matea Peteh (5:01.15) also had a personal-best by over seven seconds. Thursday night’s finals get underway at 6 p.m. from the O’Connell Center Natatorium. Live video and live results are available through, and fans can receive constant updates from the pool by following @GamecockSwim on Twitter.