This weekend the Vols and Lady Vols hosted one of the biggest meets of the season. Three of the nations’ top-20 teams came to the Allan Jones Aquatic Center for the three-day Tennessee Innovational.
The No. 2 Lady Vols hosted the No. 4 Indiana, No. 8 Georgia and No. 4 Virginia. The No. 8 Vols hosted the same three mens teams being ranked at No. 16, No. 12 and No. 18 respectively. UNC-Asheville and Carson-Newman also competed, but only sent their diving squads.
On Thursday, the two Tennessee teams combined set a total of 48 personal records.
To start, Erika Brown set her personal best and the programs seventh-fastest time at 1:57:61 in the 200 IM. Bailey Grinter hopped in on the 200 free relay, leading with a 22:26 split to help push the relay to its now third-fastest 200 free relay in the programs’ books. Senior Matthew Garcia’s relay closed the night. It was the seventh-best time in school history in the 400 medley relay with a 3:07:20.
On Friday the swimmers set 50 combined personal bests. Erika Brown and Tess Cieplucha both set record breaking times in the 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, and 400 IM.
“Tess is executing her races so well,” Associate Head Coach Ashley Jahn said. “Like Erika, she is practicing at an extremely high level and takes what we work on in practice and puts it to use in a competition setting, and in turn we get nights like tonight. It is a lot of fun to be a part of as a coach, and I know she is only getting better.”
For the men, junior Josh Walsh set the school’s ninth-fastest time in the 200 freestyle with a 1:34:94.
“I was excited that Josh took a risk and took his race out fast,” Associate Head Coach Lance Asti said. “He had the courage to go out hard and trust his training to come home. That’s what we’re trying to teach this whole team how to do, and it does take courage to do that but he trusted it. To me, it’s a symbol of buying into the mission that this team is on.”
On the final day of the invitational, the No. 2 Lady Vols finished with a total of 1,068.5 points at the top of the standings. Coming in third, the No. 8 men’s team finished with a total of of 839.5 points, trailing behind Georgia and Indiana.
Owning two of the nation’s fastest times in the 50 free, Brown continued to show out with a 21:19 on Saturday night. Sophomore Michael Houlie was also an asset Saturday, setting his personal best and eighth-fastest time in the program in the 200 breaststroke at 1:55:95.
The diving team finished the three-day meet with Keegan Richardson finishing first for the men and Grace Cable and Kara Holt taking second and third for the women. Richardson finished second early on in the meet in the 1-meter and 3-meter but took over in the end of the competition.
“His first dive was an anomaly,” Parrington said. “We changed his dive order to protect his ankle and keep him fresh throughout the dive list. He did an excellent job of putting it behind him, and he got into a steady mindset and chipped away. Credit to him for battling back.”
Grace Cable finished the meet with a score of 218.50 and Kara Holt finished with a 212.90 for the Lady Vols.
The Vols will next compete in the Auburn Diving Invitational from Dec. 17-19.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ciera Noe
Featured image courtesy of TNJN archives