INDIANAPOLIS – Georgia grabbed the first-day lead on Thursday at the NCAA championships being held at the IUPUI Natatorium.
The Lady Bulldogs rolled up 163 points on the opening day, staking themselves to a 12.5-point lead ahead of SEC rival Tennessee (150.5). Arizona is third with 127 points and California is fourth with 102.
“I thought our kids were really tough [on Thursday],” Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. “We were hoping for 160 points, and that’s what we got. This is going to be a real war for three days. We fully expect it to go down to the last relay on Saturday. We have to make sure we get all the points that we’re supposed to get along the way and then see how it shakes out at the end.”
“Last year, we had a bad first day and did not get off on the right foot,” sophomore Amber McDermott said, referring to the Lady Bulldogs’ sixth-place opening in 2012. “We’re all happy that we started off great and that we’re first going into the second day.”
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The Lady Bulldogs opened the session by coming in second in the 200 freestyle relay. The team of Maddie Locus, Chantal Van Landeghem, Jessica Graber and Megan Romano stopped the clock in 1:27.38 — the second-fastest time in school history.
McDermott took silver in the 500 freestyle for the second year in a row as she touched in 4:34.86. Shannon Vreeland was third in 4:35.95, followed by Allison Schmitt in sixth at 4:36.73. In the consolation final, Brittany MacLean claimed 11th in 4:39.08 and Jordan Mattern was 13th in 4:39.87. According to Bauerle, whose team got 56 points in the event, the 500 free saved the Lady Bulldogs on Thursday.
Romano was the runner-up in the 50 freestyle, posting a time of 21.88 — fourth-best in Georgia annals. Van Landeghem took eighth in 22.10.
Melanie Margalis came in sixth in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:54.71, while Annie Zhu placed 11th in 1:56.88.
The 400 medley relay of Romano, Margalis, Lauren Harrington and Schmitt placed sixth in 3:30.90 to match the school record set a year ago. Harrington and Romano were on the 2012 relay as well.
The NCAA championships will continue on Friday with the 200 freestyle, the 100 butterfly, the 100 breaststroke, the 100 backstroke, the 400 individual medley, the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays and 3-meter diving.
“There’s a lot of pressure on our kids every day when they’re swimming against each other,” Bauerle said. “They understand they have to step up. They know what the situation is. They [have] reacted well at SECs and I expect them to react well here.”