BACK-TO-BACK: Georgia women’s swim team repeats as NCAA champs

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. | The Georgia women’s swimming and diving team completed a wire-to-wire victory on Saturday at the NCAA championships to claim its second consecutive national title.

Georgia rolled up 528 points in the three-day meet, eclipsing Stanford’s 402.5 and Cal’s 386. Texas A&M came in fourth and Southern Cal was fifth.

The Lady Bulldogs repeated as national champions despite the absence of head coach Jack Bauerle, who has been suspended since Jan. 4 following an academic eligibility review of sophomore Chase Kalisz.

“This team set its goals back in September and they never strayed from them,” senior associate head coach Harvey Humphries said in a release. “They knew that NCAA and SEC titles were possible if they were willing to put in the hard work. Their dedication this season has been amazing. After watching them work hard every day and push themselves to get better, it’s fitting that they get to hold this trophy. This is a special accomplishment for these women and I want them to enjoy every moment of it. Part of their legacy is that they will always be the 2014 national champions.”

“This is an incredible feeling,” senior Shannon Vreeland said. “Last year was an amazing feeling too, but in a different way. Last year, I think it was expected that we were going to win it. But after losing such amazing performers as Allison Schmitt and Megan Romano, a lot of people didn’t look at us the same way this year. But we believed that we could do it. We knew we had plenty of experience in place and we knew we had a talented freshman class coming in. I’m just so proud of all the girls. As a senior, I could not ask for a better group to end my career with.”

Georgia opened the final night of competition with Brittany MacLean smashed the NCAA record in the 1,650 freestyle. She stopped the clock in 15:27.84 to eclipse the previous mark of 15:37.06 set by North Carolina’s Stephanie Peacock in 2012. Amber McDermott came in second with a time of 15:40.27 and Rachel Zilinskas was 14th in 16:06.20.

“Honestly, it’s all my teammates and coaches,” said MacLean, who won the 500 freestyle title on Thursday. “Working under Harvey Humphries, Jack Bauerle, all of the coaches, has been probably the best experience of my life. Last year, when I wasn’t at my potential and I was struggling a little bit, they all took it upon themselves to pump me up and keep me in the mix so I felt like I was still a part of the team. I owe a lot to them. That’s why I wanted to come back and have a really good year this year. … I haven’t really been setting goal times because this is my first year really in shape, swimming yards, so I’m just trying to get in there and swim a great race (so) that I can make my team proud and myself proud.”

Laura Ryan, who won the 1- and 3-meter springboard titles, came in third on platform with a score of 345.25 points.

In the 100 freestyle, Vreeland took fifth with a time of 47.60 and Olivia Smoliga won the consolation final for ninth in 47.89.

Melanie Margalis finished sixth in the 200 breaststroke in 2:07.44.

In the 200 butterfly, Hali Flickinger placed sixth in 1:54.76. Lauren Harrington won the consolation final in 1:54.65 to come in ninth.

Zilinskas came in 15th in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:56.32.

Brittany MacLean, who won the 500 and 1,650 freestyle races, was chosen as the Swimmer of the Meet. Laura Ryan, with the two springboard crowns, was picked as the Diver of the Meet, while Dan Laak was selected as the Diving Coach of the Meet.

The national championship is the sixth overall for the Lady Bulldogs, which ranks third all-time. Georgia previously claimed NCAA titles in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2013. The Lady Bulldogs also earned their fifth consecutive and 11th overall Southeastern Conference championship last month in Athens.

ESPNU will air a highlights show from the NCAAs on April 2 at 9 p.m.

The Georgia men will take their turn at the NCAAs Thursday through Saturday in Austin, Texas. The Bulldogs will have 13 swimmers at the national meet.

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