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Feb. 25, 2011

By Wes Todd
Assistant Media Relations Director

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Eight South Carolina swimmers will travel to Athens, Ga., this weekend for the Bulldog Invitational/Last Chance Meet as they aim to improve both their top times and their chances at a bid to the NCAA Championships in March. The meet runs Saturday and Sunday at the Gabrielsen Natatorium on the campus of the University of Georgia.

On the men’s side, six swimmers – Chris Kelly, Gerard Rodriguez, James Crawford, Collin Kaden, Alex Fitton and Bobby Cave – will attempt to improve their times in the 200 freestyle in order to put together the best-possible 800 freestyle relay team and earn a bid to the NCAA Championships. Another men’s swimmer, freshman Jay Warner, will have another go at the 100-yard backstroke after setting the school record in preliminaries at last week’s SEC Championships; he has an NCAA `B’ cut time but could benefit from dropping another few tenths of a second.

For the Gamecock women, senior Bridget Halligan will have one more shot at the 50-yard freestyle as she tries to end her Carolina career on a high note. Her time of 22.83 seconds at the SEC Championships was a personal-best and an NCAA provisional qualifier, but a drop of another two- or three-tenths of a second could be enough to get her to the NCAA Championships.

One Gamecock swimmer – freshman Amanda Rutqvist – is already qualified for the NCAA meet after posting the nation’s sixth-fastest time and setting an SEC record in the 200-yard breaststroke on Saturday night, winning South Carolina’s first-ever women’s swimming SEC title with a time of 2:08.56. She will also likely swim the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley at the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas. Fellow freshman Rachael Schaffer is in good shape to make the meet as well. She owns the nation’s 17th-fastest time in the 200 individual medley and the 19th-best 400 individual medley time in the country this year.

Sophomore Michael Flach is also poised to make his second straight appearance at the men’s NCAA Championships. His time of 4:16.03 in the 500 freestyle earned him a bronze medal at the SEC Championships for the second year in a row, and was three seconds faster than his medal-winning time last season that earned him an invitation to the meet. It also ranks as the fourth-fastest time in the nation this year. He also owns the nation’s 15th-fastest 200 freestyle time and the 17th-ranked 200 butterfly time this season; both events will be on his program at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minn.