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Women's Swimming & Diving Headline

Saturday February 23, 2002Swimming and Diving Re-claims Former SEC Glory

Freshman Rebecca Harper broke an SEC record to help lead the Lady Gators to the 2002 SEC title.

The No. 6 University of Florida women's swimming and diving team claimed their first Southeastern Championship title since 1996 Saturday at the 2002 SEC Championships hosted at the Arkansas HPER Natatorium. The No. 11 men's team placed second again struggling to overcome the No. 2 Auburn Tigers who claimed their fifth consecutive title.

The Lady Gators took their 16th Championship in school History, combined with the men, have more titles than any other school in the conference combined. The Florida women's swimming and diving program has captured more titles than any other SEC school in any sport. UF has now claimed 16 of a possible 22 possible league crowns, including 11 consecutive from 1986 through 1997. The men posted their highest finish since 2000, winning the most titles during the meet since 1996.

The UF women trailed defending national champion No. 5 Georgia entering Saturday's competition. Florida led an electric comeback led by the second one-two-three finish of the week. In the 1,650-yard freestyle, sophomore Sarah McLarty (DeLand, Fla.) won the first SEC medal of her collegiate career. McLarty (16:12.20) beat out defending champion, fellow Gator sophomore Janelle Atkinson (Jamaica) by more than two seconds. Freshman Meredith Green (Durham, N.C.) took the bronze with her time of 16:14.77. The same trio also claimed the top three spots in the 500-yard freestyle Thursday night.

The women continued to roll in the 200-yard butterfly where freshman Rebecca Harper (Richmond, Va.) took the gold. Haper's time of 1:55.97 sets a new SEC record replacing a time of 1:56.67 set by former Gator Olympian Tracy Caulkins in 1983. Three other Lady Gators also scored in the championship finals of the event. Senior Diane Tennison (Lafayette, La.) took sixth (2:00.96), junior transfer Renate du Plessis (Capetown, South Africa) placed seventh (2:01.39), while junior Cara Teague (Sugarland, Texas) also made the championship cut placing eighth (2:02.15).

"It's indescribable to say just how it feels to break the record," Harper said. "Tracy Caulkins is the best of all time. To know it was her record is incredible. I'm just happy to be here. I felt so pumped. Swimming in college is just swimming for your team. I just wanted to score points."

The men rallied early in the evening behind sophomore Chris Kellam (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) who won his second SEC title of the week and of his career. Kellam first won the 100-yard backstroke Friday evening, and took the 200-yard backstroke Saturday. Kellam again swam a lifetime best and school second-fastest time with his 1:42.48.

"This is great," Kellam said. "It was a big surprise. I'll get back in the water Monday and train. Then I'll rest again for NCAA's. NCAA's look so good. It feels great to know that coach believes that I can go even faster than this at NCAA's."

The Gators also scored big in the 100-yard freestyle with sophomore Carlos Jayme (Goias, Brazil) taking second (43.58.). Freshman Gabriel Mangabeira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) just missed the medal cut taking fourth with his time of 43.96. Mangabeira is competing in his first SEC Tournament and has only been swimming with the Gators since January.

"This is truly an honor," head coach Gregg Troy said. "The SEC is the fastest conference in the nation. Competition against teams like Auburn and the national champion Georgia is incredible. I am really proud of the women. They are not the highest profile stars but they came together in the finals and consolations to swim like true champions."

Combined the UF teams won a total of 34 medals this year, including nine SEC titles. Last year the Gators won just six. The championships will air tape-delayed on Fox Sports South on March 10 at 6 p.m. eastern.

UF will now prepare for the NCAA Championships after hosting a last chance meet for swimmers to qualify. The women will travel to Austin, Texas on March 21-23 where the Longhorns are hosting this year. Athens, Ga. will be the location where Georgia will host the men's events on March 28-30.

Agate

Team Scores

women

1. Florida 742.5

2. Georgia 719

3. Auburn 693.5

4. Alabama 340.5

5. LSU 312

6. USC 285.5

7. Tennessee 240

8. Arkansas 214

9. Kentucky 203

men

1. Auburn 763

2. Florida 744

3. Georgia 522.5

4. Tennessee 476

5. USC 339

6. Alabama 314

7. Kentucky 282

8. LSU 174.5

1,650-yard Freestyle

women

1. Sara McLarty, UF (16:12.20)*; 2. Janelle Atkinson, UF (16:14.25)*; 3. Meredith Green) UF (16:14.77)*

men

1. Robert Margalis, UGA (15:03.97)^; 2. Kevin Clements, Aub. (15:05.23)^; 3. George DuRand, Tenn. (15:15.79)^

200-yard backstroke

women

1. Margaret Hoelzer, Aub. (1:55.35)*; 2. Kirsty Coventry, Aub. (1:55.39)*; 3. Maureen Farrell, UF (1:57.49)*

men

1. Chris Kellam, UF (1:42.48)*; 2. Marc Lindsay, UGA (1:43.31)*; 3. Bryce Hunt, Aub. (1:43.66)*

100-yard Freestyle

women

1. Maritza Corriea, UGA (48.29)*; 2. Stefanie Williams, UGA (48.64)*; 3. Eileen Coparropa (48.91)*

men

1. Zsolt Gaspar, USC (42.89)*; 2. Carlos Jayme, UF (43.58)*; 3. Ryan Wochomurka, Aub. (43.73)^

200-yard Breaststroke

women1

1. Anne Poleska, Ala. (2:09.21)*; 2. Ashley Roby, UGA (2:13.77)*; 3. Laura Swander, Aub. (2:14.37)^

men

1. Kyle Salyards, UGA (1:56.72)*; 2. Justin Caron, Aub. (1:57.73)^; 3. Mark Gangloff, Aub. (1:57.84)^

200-yard Butterfly

women

1. Rebecca Harper, UF (1:55.97)*; 2. Katie Yevak, UGA (1:57.98)*; 3. Demerae Christianson, Aub. 1:58.22)*

men

1. Stefan Gherghel, Ala. (1:44.73)*; 2. Randy Lam, UGA (1:45.16)^; 3. Duncan Sherrard, UF (1:45.23)^

400-yard Freestyle Relay

women

1. Georgia, 3:15.20 (Williams, Mabry, Kearns, Corriea)*; 2. Auburn, 3:18.31 (Short, Maxwell, Coventry, Coparropa)*; 3. Florida, 3:20.61 (Tennison, Martindale, Gibney, Ellis)^

men

1. Florida, 2:52.74 (Jayme, Odendaal, Mangabeira, Sioui)*; 2. South Carolina, 2:56.06 (McCrary, Gaspar, Botello, Szucs)^; 3. Georgia, 2:57.60 (Kintz, Gagnon, Brado, Lindsay)^--UF set a school and SEC record--

*denotes NCAA automatic qualifying time

^denotes NCAA provisional qualifying time

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