March 25, 2009

Courtesy of Georgia Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia men’s swimming and diving team look to replace the efforts of three national champions from a season again in sending a squad of 10 to compete at this weekend’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, held at the Student Recreation Center Natatorium on the campus of Texas A&M.

The meet begins Thursday and will conclude Saturday night. Preliminary heats will begin at 12 p.m. daily and the event finals are scheduled for 7 p.m. All times are central.

Last year, the Bulldogs finished seventh at the national meet, totaling 229 points and was led by national champions Chris Colwill (1-meter), Sebastien Rouault (500 and 1,650 freestyle) and Gil Stovall (200 butterfly). The Bulldogs have two swimmers, Troyden Prinsloo and Mark Dylla, who finished as runners-up to teammates a year ago at the NCAA Championships. Prinsloo finished second to Rouault in the 1,650 free and Dylla was runner-up to Stovall in the 200 butterfly.

Heading into this season, head coach Jack Bauerle and staff were concerned about how to replace that kind of Olympic talent. However, Prinsloo, Dylla and Neil Versfeld emerged as Georgia’s leaders this season and the Bulldogs will rely on the trio this weekend to produce top-eight finishes.

“We are looking forward to this meet,” he said. “Our challenge to our men was to contend for a top 10 finish after losing three of the top male athletes we’ve ever had here in Chris, Sebby and Gil. I think with Troy, Neil and Mark, we have good firepower and we have to be on our A game to make that happen. I feel confident we can swim pretty well. If we are in good shape going into the last day we feel like we can do some damage.”

Aside from Prinsloo and Dylla, two other Georgia athletes have experienced the NCAA Championships in previous years. Chris Spooner and Versfeld are veterans of the national meet, with Spooner on his second round and Versfeld making his third appearance at NCAAs. Versfeld missed last year’s meet after redshirting and is ranked as the top seed in the 200 breaststroke this year.

Spooner and Versfeld are the lone seniors joining the squad this week, as Michael Arnold, Peter Benner and Todd McGraw represent the freshman class; Bill Cregar and Dylla the sophomores; and Craig Jennings, Hunter Lainhart and Prinsloo the juniors.

After finishing fourth at the SEC Championships and recording numerous school records this season, as well as Versfeld recording an NCAA record in the 200 breaststroke, a top 10 finish is an attainable goal this weekend for the Bulldogs. And with a young team that will return 80 percent of its postseason squad next year, many of Georgia’s participants will acquire valuable experience on the national stage that will serve the program well in the coming years.

“It’s been a fun men’s team this season,” Bauerle said. “They have worked hard this season. And three freshmen that have made it, so having those guys here will be good experience for them.”