BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Powered by strong performances from both veterans and newcomers, the University of Georgia swimming and diving team opened its season with a sweep of Alabama Friday afternoon at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
The Bulldog men (1-0, 1-0 SEC) took the meet by a 157-143 margin, while the Lady Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SEC) were decisive victors with a 163.5-136.5 score. Overall, Georgia swimmers took first in 15 events in the meet.
“Really two good wins today for our kids. Really proud of them,” said Tom Cousins Swimming and Diving Head Coach Jack Bauerle after the meet. “It wasn’t perfect, but the first meet never is. Alabama’s a really good team. It was a tight meet throughout, and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Junior Courtney Harnish was Georgia’s top scorer for the afternoon with 19.5 points, earning victories in the 200 (1:47.53) and 500 (4:47.04) freestyle. A trio of Bulldogs tallied 18 points, including senior Walker Higgins, junior Camden Murphy and freshman Zoie Hartman. Higgins took first in the 200 (1:36.52) and 500 (4:25.36) freestyle, while Murphy grabbed first in the 100 (47.88) and 200 (1:46.69) butterfly. Hartman was especially impressive in her college debut, placing first in the 100 (1:01.09) and 200 (2:13.01) breaststroke, as well as swimming the second leg of a victorious 200 medley relay.
“Zoie’s going to be exceptional,” said Bauerle. “She’s got the temperament, and she’s got the competitiveness.”
Following the opening medley relay victory, which also included junior Gabi Fa’amausili, sophomore Dakota Luther and senior Veronica Burchill, junior Greg Reed gave Georgia its first individual victory of the day with a time of 9:03.02 in the 1,000 freestyle, capping a Bulldog sweep of the top four in the event. Georgia continued to pile on at the top of the leaderboard, taking the top three in the men’s and women’s 200 freestyle and women’s 100 breaststroke.
“Greg Reed in the 1,000 really got us moving after the first relay, and that helped us,” said Bauerle.
Luther continued to bolster the Georgia lead as she took the 200 butterfly by over three seconds with a mark of 1:56.51, while also placing second in the 100 butterfly. Burchill picked up her first victory of the season with a 49.70 time in the 100 freestyle and finished third in the 100 butterfly.
Freshman Ian Grum also made a strong debut as he posted a winning time of 1:45.88 in the 200 backstroke, followed by junior Jack Dalmolin’s 200 breaststroke win (2:01.52). In the home stretch, Harnish tied for first in the 500 free, followed by Higgins and Murphy’s victories, concluding with sophomore Andrew Abruzzo’s critical victory in the 400 IM (3:52.89). Abruzzo was followed in the top four by Grum, senior Clayton Forde and freshman Harry Homans.
“That was the highlight right at the end,” said Bauerle. “They put the meet away so we didn’t have to go down to the last relay.”
In the diving competition, sophomore Ellie Crump helped seal the overall team victory with the first individual win of her career, earning a score of 283.05 in the 3-meter springboard. Senior Freida Lim followed close behind with a score of 277.50, while junior Josh Getty narrowly took first in the men’s 3-meter (309.98). In the 1-meter springboard, Lim and Crump were joined in the top four by senior McKensi Austin.
“It’s hard to start off sometimes with an SEC meet, especially on the road, but it’s no different from any other sport,” said Bauerle. “Really happy with the effort. I liked the way we raced. I liked the way we won.”
The Bulldogs will return to the water in three weeks as they travel north for back-to-back duals against North Carolina (Friday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.) and Duke (Saturday, Oct. 26 at 11 a.m.).