Kentucky Swimming and Diving prepare for the 2021-22 season


Kentucky swimmers compete in the Blue and White Meet on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at the Lancaster Aquatic Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

The horn sounded on the 2021-22 Kentucky Swimming and Diving season Friday afternoon for the annual Blue and White meet.

Family, friends and fans all showed out to pack the Lancaster Aquatic Center in anticipation of another historic and eventful season filled with some ‘Cat on ‘Cat action. The meet featured competitive swimming events and convoluted diving combinations; teammates’ cheers echoed over splashing water in the pool throughout the afternoon.

Last season was one for the history books as Kentucky’s women’s team captured the first SEC championship in program history. The team’s 1,124 points in the championship meet bested its previous record-high of 987.5 and brought home three gold medals at the tournament. 

Lauren Poole (400 IM) and Riley Gaines (200 free) won individual SEC gold. Gaines doubled her gold medal count by winning another gold with Kentucky’s 800 freestyle team composed of Gaines, Izzy Gati, Kaitlynn Wheeler and Sophie Sorenson. Kentucky also won three silver medals and six bronze and have high hopes to follow that up this season.

“We’re excited to get the season underway, and we have a competitive schedule this year that will expose the team to high-level talent to prepare them for the SEC and NCAA Championships,” head coach Lars Jorgensen said. “The women are ready for the challenge of defending their conference title, and the men are eager to continue moving up the rankings as we compete at the highest level.” 

While the women blew their competition out of the water at the SEC Tournament last season, the men’s team also scored its best point total ever at the meet with 759 — 35 points better than its previous best. The score marked the fifth consecutive year that the men have broken their previous point total record at the SEC tournament.

Kentucky returns 29 of the 35 point scorers from the men’s and women’s teams from last season, including all eight women’s freestyle competitors — those 29 individuals amassed 1,133 of the 1,433 regular season points in 2020-21.

On top of the wide variety of returners back in Lexington for the 2021-22 season, the freshman class is one of the most highly-touted to come through Kentucky in a while. Louisville-native Meredith Bauer, Megan Ciezczak and Kaelan Daly on the women’s side and Michael Belair, Nick Caruso and Victor Martin Roig for the men lead the incoming class for this season.

“We’re excited to welcome this freshman class to Lexington,” said Jorgensen. “The coaching staff is eager to see them step up and stand out on Friday at the intrasquad meet, which will be an excellent opportunity for the newcomers to compete for travel spots and conference team selections.”

Kentucky doesn’t have to worry about rust for their top swimmers and divers. Nine different swimmers qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials over the summer where Sorenson (100 and 200M back) and Gillian Davey (200M breast) advanced to the semifinals in their respective events. Three divers also qualified for the Trials — Chase Lane ended up a finalist in the 10M platform while Kyndal Knight qualified for the semifinals of the one-meter springboard event. 

Despite not having any swimmers qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, to have 12 of Kentucky’s swimmers and divers compete against the best competition in the country is something that can’t be understated and is an experience that can only prepare them even more for the upcoming season.