UK swim and dive men get historic win over Tennessee

Swimming and Diving on Friday, September 30, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Leach

This week the Chicago Cubs made history for being in the World Series for the first time since 1945. Sort of like the Cubs, the No. 18 UK men’s swim & dive team made history Friday afternoon as they defeated the No. 13 Tennessee Volunteers for the first time since 1953.

The Cats beat the Vols with a score of 167-143. The Cats also took on the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers in the same meet and lost 195-105.

The meet got started on a high note for the Cats. In just the second event of the meet, Andrew Aviotti took down Marwan Elkamash of Indiana to win the 1000-yard free. Neither competitor gave each other an inch the entire race until Aviotti was able to pull away in the final yards.

“He’s kind of the fire plug in the first half of the meet,” head coach Lars Jorgensen said. “He’s always a great finisher so I felt pretty confident really with 100 yards left that he was going to win.”

Walker Thaning also competed well in this meet. Thaning won the 200-yard backstroke and took second in the 100-yard backstroke.

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Thaning is only .21 seconds away from achieving the NCAA B-standard in the 100 back, and .47 seconds away from the B-standard in the 200 back.

Senior star for the Cats Kyle Higgins also contributed points to the Cats’ overall score. Higgins won the 200-yard butterfly, and placed second in the 100-yard butterfly. Higgins so far this season is undefeated in the 200-fly. 

Even though Higgins did not swim a season’s best time in the 200 fly today, he still owns the third fastest time in the NCAA this year in that event. Higgins is happy with the way his season is going so far.

“It’s definitely a surprise, kind of,” Higgins said. “I was really happy with my summer season and how the Olympic Trials went, so I’m kind of taking that confidence I got from there and bringing it into short-course season and it’s really been paying off.”

Higgins also said he hopes to achieve his qualifying time in the 100 fly at the Ohio State Invitational, which is in two weeks.

On the women’s side of the competition, the Cats took on No. 11 Tennessee and No. 12 Indiana, but were unable to come away with any team victories losing 155-145 and 169-131, respectively.

Even with the team loss, there were strong individual performances on the women’s side of the meet.

The women used their depth and talent in the backstroke races to score big points for the team. In the 100-yard back, the Cats took three of the top four places, with freshman Asia Seidt leading the way for the Cats in second place.

Seidt also won the 200-yard individual medley with a season’s best time of 2:00.21, which is less than a minute away from the NCAA B-standard. 

Kendra Crew also swam well in the meet. Crew took third in the 100-yard breaststroke, and second in the 200-yard breaststroke.

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First place in both women’s breaststroke events was Indiana’s Lilly King. King is known for winning the gold medal in the 100 breaststroke at this past summer’s Olympic games. Crew enjoyed the opportunity to swim with her.

“Not many people get to say they raced head-on with an Olympic champion,” Crew said. “It was just a great experience and one of the races I’ll always remember.”

Before today’s meet, both the men and women’s swim teams were ranked in the top 25 for the first time since Jorgensen became head coach. The men’s team will likely rise in the rankings after today’s historic victory over UT.

The Cats will get one week to prepare for their next meet, as Missouri, Northwestern and Southern Illinois will be in Lexington on Nov. 4-5 to face the Cats. The meet will take place at the Lancaster Aquatic Center and competition is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4.

This will be another opportunity for the Cats to face strong competition.

“Missouri is really good, I think they’re top-10 on both the women and men in NCAA,” Jorgensen said. “They got a couple of really world class swimmers so we just want to fight and compete.”