Both men’s and women’s swim and dive teams finish in top half overall at SEC championships

The Mizzou men finished in fifth while the women placed sixth behind record-breaking performances and four top-three individual finishers.
Missouri Tigers swimmer Hannah Stevens does the backstroke during a swim meet at the Mizzou Aquatic Center, in Columbia, Mo Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

With only a single Southeastern Conference victory between both Missouri swim and dive teams this season, the odds seemed stacked against the Tigers ahead of the 2018 SEC championships Wednesday through Sunday.

Their poor SEC record did not show in College Station, Texas.

The talent Missouri possesses that was dormant against SEC competition throughout the year was unleashed at the right time, as the No. 15 Mizzou men finished in fifth place (794.5 points) and the No. 20 Mizzou women placed sixth (739 points).

No. 4 Florida won the men’s competition with 1,227 points and the No. 3 Texas A&M women won in their home pool with 1,319 points.

Fueled by a runner-up finish in the 100-yard backstroke by senior Hannah Stevens (50.91 seconds) on Saturday and a third-place finish by senior Madeline McKernan (287.7) in the diving platform competition on Sunday, the Mizzou women finished ahead of Arkansas (10th place) and South Carolina (8th place), two teams that beat them in October.

McKernan’s score of 287.7 in the final round of the platform competition marked her season-best dive and second time placing top four at the SEC championships in her collegiate career.

Head diving coach Jamie Sweeney spoke highly of McKernan’s ability to remain calm under pressure and enjoy herself on the final day of competition.

“It was really fun to see her get up there, love the sport of diving, and get excited about doing the dive that we were on right then,” Sweeney said in a press release. “Forget about the meet, forget about the judges, and just be excited about putting down the dive that's on the scoreboard, and she did. She had a blast today, and when you have fun you dive well. And when you dive well you have fun."

A runner-up finish by junior Jacob Wielinski in the 1,650-yard freestyle (14:44.24) and a third-place finish by junior Mikel Schreuders in the 200-yard freestyle (1:33.24) carried the Mizzou men past Kentucky (ninth place), avenging a November SEC loss.

Wielinski shattered his own Mizzou record (14:59.10) by almost 15 seconds in the final heat of the 1,650-yard freestyle on Sunday with his silver medal time of 14:44.24. Schreuders continued his consistency at the SEC championships, placing top five in the 200-yard freestyle for the third year in a row and tying his own school record of 1:33.24 in the final heat on Friday.

Head coach Greg Rhodenbaugh commended Wielinski on his record-breaking performance and on qualifying for the NCAA championships.

“Jacob [Wielinski’s] swim was outstanding,” Rhodenbaugh said in a press release. “He and Courtney [Evensen] started off the meet in the mile, and they were awesome. They both punched their tickets to NCAAs."

Other record-breaking performances for Mizzou included two individual swimmers and two relay teams.

For the Mizzou men, freshman Carter Grimes broke the 400-yard individual medley program record (3:44.08) with a time of 3:43.02, and the 800-yard freestyle relay team of sophomore Giovanny Lima, freshman Grant Reed, junior Sam Coffman and Schreuders earned a school-record time of 6:15.38.

Grimes lowered his personal best in the 400 individual medley by over two seconds, and the 800 free relay team broke the Mizzou all-time record by almost three seconds.

On the women’s side, senior Sharli Brady broke a program record in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:54.01, and the 400-yard freestyle relay team of junior Annie Ochitwa, senior Erin Metzger-Seymour, Stevens and Brady broke a school record with a time of 3:15.25.

Along with her school record, Brady placed on the podium for the first time in her collegiate career at the SEC Championships with a bronze medal.

Next, the Missouri men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will host the Mizzou NCAA Qualifier from Feb. 24-25, their final meet of the year before the NCAA championships.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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