Tide heads to Knoxville for SEC Championships

Tide heads to Knoxville for SEC Championships
01_28_12 SW vs. Georgia Susan Schwee Photo by Jeri A. Gulsby

The Alabama swimming and diving team packed up and headed to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Southeastern Conference Championships. The meet will start Wednesday and run through Saturday.

Both the men and women enter the championships coming off a loss in their previous meets. The men suffered a close 152-148 loss to No. 10 Georgia. The women lost 173-121 to Georgia’s women ranked No. 5. Despite these losses, head coach Eric McIlquham said he is not worried about entering the championships on a loss.

“We had some good swims,” McIlquham said. “They were both good teams.”

When it comes to swimming, the SEC is considered by many to be the toughest conference in the nation. McIlquham said the stiff competition makes it hard to pick one school as the “school to beat.”

The meet will be held at the Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee. While some swimmers consider some pools different from others, McIlquham said his preparation for the meet does not change.

“Everyone swims in the same pool,” McIlquham said. “Everyone has to swim here and back the fastest.”

McIlquham added that this meet is what the team has focused on for a while, and he didn’t change his approach just because it is a big meet.

“We can only control our lane,” McIlquham said.

McIlquham said his team's strength comes from the men's team and overall youth. They draw a lot of it from the guys and youth.

“The guys team is strong top to bottom,” McIlquham said. “We have some good swimmers in BJ Hornikel and Joe Ziegler.”

McIlquham believes the strength in the women will come from the younger people.

“We have some good young swimmers like Kaylin Burchell,” McIlquham said.

McIlquham added that he believes some people from both the men and women’s teams could be capable of having breakout performances at this meet.

“I think BJ Hornikel and Joe Ziegler could,” McIlquham said. “I also think Kaylin Burchell and Alex Popa are both capable as well.”

The divers will begin Wednesday along with the swimmers. McIlquham said both teams can contribute.

“We have a good group of divers,” McIlquham said. “They get better the higher they go.”

While winning an SEC championship would be nice, McIlquham said they have one goal in mind.

“We’re looking to get as many to NCAA’s as we can,” McIlquham said.

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