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Georgia swimming looks to improve in sprint races moving forward

by ZwemZa on October 7th, 2017
Georgia swimmer Javier Acevedo during the Southeastern Conference Championships at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)     Courtesy UGA Sports Comm

Georgia swimmer Javier Acevedo during the Southeastern Conference Championships at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

In a sea of long-distance and middle-distance talent, Georgia swimming is still searching for firepower in short-distance races left behind by last year’s seniors such as Olivia Smoliga and Chantal Van Landeghem.

Georgia competed against UNC in the Bulldogs’ home opener Friday evening. The No. 4 Lady Bulldogs earned a 180-120 victory over the No. 22 Tar Heels. The No. 8 Bulldogs scored a 187-113 win against the unranked UNC men.

Over 17 percent of the total points Georgia earned came from only four of the 28 events: the men’s 1000-yard freestyle, women’s 1000 freestyle, men’s 500 freestyle and women’s 500 freestyle. All of which are long-distance races.

Georgia did not find the same success in the short-distance events.

In 19 of the 24 individual events, Georgia swimmers finished in at least two of the top three places. The men’s and women’s 50-yard freestyle were two of the five events with only one Bulldog finishing in the top three.

In the men’s 50 freestyle, freshman Camden Murphy came in second. Only three hundredths of a second stood between Murphy and the first place UNC swimmer James Casey. Sophomore Veronica Burchill placed third in the women’s 50 freestyle.

The loss of sprinters Smoliga and Van Landeghem from last years team is certainly apparent on the women’s side.

“We’re not the best short-distance group,” sophomore Javier Acevedo said. “I think the team will get better as the year goes on. Coming down in distance is much easier than going up. It’s good to know that we have the fitness.”

In the meet’s results, Georgia swimmers placed higher as the distance of the events increased.

In both 50-yard events, only one Bulldog placed among the top three in each. In most of the 100-yard events, two swimmers placed in the top three. In most of the 200-yard events, Georgia swimmers occupied the first three places.

“We’re not gifted [in short-distance races], but I think we have some people who can get us to be where we need,” Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said. “You got to remember Gunnar [Bentz] will come back and Gunnar can race anything.”

Bentz, a senior and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, broke his collarbone last week in a scooter accident. He underwent surgery last week and began physical therapy.

Bentz anticipates returning to competition in “probably a month to month and a half.”

Bauerle shared a more immediate solution.

“My timetable for Gunnar is as soon as possible,” Bauerle said.  “My other timetable is the scooter sold within a week.”

Bauerle said the loss of Bentz was a “big blow” to the team, but was impressed by Jay Litherland’s ability to step up against UNC. In Bentz’s absence, Litherland anchored the 200 medley relay which placed first.

“The Litherlands just race no matter what,” Bauerle said of Jay and his triplet brothers Mick and Kevin, also seniors on the team. “They’re always going to give you some exciting stuff.”

Lauren D’Ambra

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