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Feb. 18, 2013

Meet NotesGet Acrobat Reader | SEC Championships Central

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina swimming and diving teams will open competition at the 2013 SEC Championships on Tuesday at the Texas A&M Student Recreation Center Natatorium in College Station, Texas.

The championships will be held through Saturday, with preliminaries taking place each day at 10 a.m. CT and finals at 6 p.m. CT. The Gamecock men turned in a 6-6 overall record and a 1-3 mark in the SEC during the regular season, while the Carolina women went 6-7 and 1-4 against SEC competition.

The Gamecocks are making their 22nd appearance at the SEC Championships, with their first being the 1992 championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Carolina men recorded their best finish ever that year with a fifth-place showing. The Gamecock women finished fifth in 2004 and 2005 for their best finish at the event. On the men’s side, the Gamecocks have produced five individual SEC champions, led by two-time champion Zsolt Gaspar (2000, 2001). South Carolina has won 10 individual titles on the women’s side, including junior Amanda Rutqvist, who became the first Gamecock women’s swimmer to win an SEC title by finishing first in the 200 breaststroke in 2011. Prior to joining the SEC, South Carolina’s men had won eight consecutive Metro Conference championships while the Gamecock women took seven of eight titles in the league.

South Carolina enters the championships with two swimmers who have achieved NCAA provisional qualifying times and three divers who have posted NCAA Zone qualifying scores. On the men’s side, junior Michael Flach looks to lead the way after missing last year’s SEC Championships because of an Olympic redshirt. Flach has posted NCAA B cuts in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly and ranks in the top 20 in the country in all three events. Senior Brooks Ross and freshman Marwan El Kamash (NCAA B cuts in 500 and 1,650 free) have been two of the top distance swimmers for the Gamecocks. Senior Matt Columbus (500 freestyle, 1,650 freestyle), junior Matt Navata (400 IM, 200 butterfly), junior Gerard Rodriguez (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 butterfly) and junior Jay Warner (100 backstroke) all look to get back in the finals this week after scoring at last year’s SEC Championships. On the boards, senior Rylan Ridenour enters the week as one of the SEC’s top divers, ranking fourth in the conference on the one-meter board and first on the three-meter. Sophomore Cole Miller will look to score points for Carolina for a second straight year after making the finals last season on the three-meter (sixth) and platform (fifth).

The Gamecocks have three swimmers with NCAA provisional times and three divers with Zone scores. For the third straight year, juniors Amanda Rutqvist and Rachael Schaffer are expected to lead the way. Rutqvist has posted NCAA B cuts in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, with her time in the 200 breaststroke being the 13th fastest in the country. Rutqvist won the 200 breaststroke in 2011, becoming the first Gamecock women’s swimmer to win an SEC title. She finished second in the event last year. Schaffer enters the meet with a provisional qualifying time in the 400 IM. She finished sixth in the event in 2011 and fifth last season. She has also scored points in the 200 IM both years. Senior Matea Peteh has posted a NCAA B cut in the 100 freestyle, while senior Whitney Avers (200 butterfly), junior Abby Galbreath (400 IM) and sophomore Annika Jonsson (200 butterfly) all scored points at last year’s championships. Sophomore diver Patricia Kranz, who finished ninth on the platform last year, will look to score on all three boards this season. She enters the week with the top score in the SEC on the one-meter board and the second best score on the three-meter.

The SEC Championships was already one of the biggest swimming and diving events outside of the NCAA Championships, but this year’s version will be even more entertaining with the conference’s addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. The Aggies are ranked No. 18 on the men’s side and No. 9 on the women’s side heading into the championships, while both Missouri squads are just outside of the top 25. With two new teams in the fold, the championships will now be contested over five days instead of four and will have 24 spots available in each individual swimming final instead of 16.

Year in and year out the SEC is one of the strongest conferences in collegiate swimming, and this year is no different. Heading into the championships, five men’s teams and six women’s teams are ranked in the CSCAA Top 25. On the men’s side, Florida (No. 4), Auburn (No. 5), Tennessee (No. 11), Georgia (No. 12) and Texas A&M (No. 18) are ranked, while South Carolina was in the poll four times during the season. Auburn (No. 3), Tennessee (No. 4), Georgia (No. 6), Florida (No. 8), Texas A&M (No. 9) and Arkansas (No. 18) are ranked in the women’s poll.

The Gamecocks wrapped up the SEC Championships in eighth place in both the men’s and women’s competition at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn. On the week the Gamecocks posted 30 provisional qualifying times, won three medals, broke two school records and set one SEC record. Carolina had a stellar week on the boards led by Courtney Forcucci. The Fort Mill, S.C., native won gold on the three-meter springboard with an SEC record 392.4 points. She also claimed bronze in the one-meter competition and scored points with a 10th-place showing on the platform. Cole Miller had a solid SEC debut as he finished fifth on the platform and sixth on the three-meter board. In the swimming events, Amanda Rutqvist led the way with a silver medal in the 200-yard breaststroke with a NCAA provisional qualifying time of 2:09.48. The Carolina women’s 200-yard medley relay team also had a strong showing as the team of Matea Peteh, Rutqvist, Meghan Brockington and Rachel Elliott broke the school record with a time of 1:41.38.

The Gamecock diving corps has had yet another stellar season under the direction of head coach Todd Sherritt and will be shooting for a third-straight SEC women’s champion in College Station. South Carolina has had three individual champions in the last four years, with Taryn Zack winning the one-meter board in 2009 and 2011 and Courtney Forcucci claiming the three-meter title in 2012. Sophomore Patricia Kranz is one of the favorites heading into the championships as she has the top score in the conference on the one-meter board (344.93) and the second-best mark on the three-meter board (372.38). Kranz has tallied eight wins on the season.

Coverage of the 2013 SEC Championships will be available every day through ESPN3 and the SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M. Live results will also be available here. Below is a schedule of coverage for the week:

Tuesday, February 19
Prelims: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M
Finals: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M

Wednesday, February 20
Prelims: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M
Finals: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M

Thursday, February 21
Prelims: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M
Finals: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M

Friday, February 22
Prelims: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M

Saturday, February 23
Prelims: SEC Digital Network/Texas A&M