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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Swimming: Vanderbilt takes on SEC Championships

Multiple swimmers broke individual and school records in a historic weekend.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Faith Knelson advances to the final of the 200-meter breastroke at the SEC championships on Feb. 18, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Vanderbilt Swimming finished in 12th place at the SEC Championships in College Station, Texas, breaking multiple individual and school records in a historic weekend. 

On the opening day of the competition, Vanderbilt posted season-best performances in both relays. Gabriela Pierobon Mays, Faith Knelson, Natalie Van Noy and Chantal Jordan opened with a time of 1:40.57, just over a second off the program record in the relay. In the 800-meter relay later that night, Ellie Taliaferro, Ryen Bosuro, Eleanor Beers and Mercedes Traba finished in 7:26.71, nearly five seconds faster than Vanderbilt’s previous best time this season. Taliaferro set a school record with her lead-off 200-meter leg in the race. 

On day two, the Commodores broke another school record. Mercedes Traba posted a time of 4:49.49 in the 500-free to break the previous school record, set by Selah Peacock in November 2017. In the 200-IM later that day, Knelson and Maddie Smith posted the fastest times of any competing Commodores. After Traba’s record-breaking performance, head coach Jeremy Organ commented on the work ethic that’s led to her success.

“Mercedes has had a really strong season, a lot of it starts with what she does in practice day in and day out,” Organ said. “She has improved her consistency, and that has started to show itself in her performances.”

 Kalia Utley and Traba continued to pace the Commodores on the third day of the competition. Utley finished 29th in the preliminary round for the 100-fly, barely missing qualifications for the finals by less than 0.2 of a second. Meredith DiPasquale also made school history, moving up to ninth on Vanderbilt’s all-time performer list in the 100-fly with a time of 55.63. 

On the fourth day, Utley broke the school record for the 200-fly and qualified for the finals with a time of 1:57.65. Knelson also set a new Vanderbilt record with her performance in the 100-breaststroke. Knelson’s 22nd-place finish in prelims qualified her for an appearance in the bonus finals. After her record-breaking performance, Utley reflected on what allowed her to be succesful. 

“I’m very pleased with my swim this evening,” Utley said. “I was really worried about reaching the finals again this year. I did it last year but wasn’t sure it was going to happen again because of how much faster everyone’s times seem to be this season. I went six one-hundreths of a second faster this morning, that gave me confidence, and then in the evening I was able to let everything go and just swim.”

On the fifth and final day of the competition, Knelson qualified for the finals in the 200-breaststroke. Smith led all Vanderbilt swimmers in the 200 backstroke, and Megan Ciezczak did the same for the 100-freestyle. Throughout the week, the Commodores set four individual records and had multiple swimmers enter the program’s top-10  all-time performer list. Organ reflected on the team’s consistent growth throughout the competition. 

“I’m proud of and happy for how our team competed over the course of this week at these championships,” Organ said. “We’ve really set a good standard for the program and its trajectory over the next couple of years; I’m excited about that.”s

Vanderbilt will now prepare for the CSCAA National Invitational Championships, which begin on March 9 in Elkhart, Indiana.

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About the Contributor
Brandon Karp
Brandon Karp, Senior Staff Writer
Brandon Karp ('25) is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is studying human and organizational development and political science in Peabody College. You can reach him at [email protected].
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