Tigers show grit in hard-fought losses to Virginia

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AuburnÕs Santiago Grassi competes in the Men 200 Yard Butterfly. Virginia vs Auburn Swimming on Saturday, January 4, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. Anthony Hall/Auburn Athletics

By Greg Ostendorf
Auburn Athletics
Department
Special to the
Opelika Observer

The Auburn women suffered a 253-195 loss to No. 3 Virginia while the men nearly rallied in the second session to beat No. 15 Virginia before falling, 235-215.
“To me, it’s all about laying yourself on the line for Auburn,” said Auburn Coach Gary Taylor. “Regardless of outcome, did you give it everything you had? Can you look your coaches in the eyes and be proud of your effort and your performance? And I saw a lot of that tonight.
“That’s what I want to see from this Auburn program. We don’t roll over. We don’t quit. We keep fighting. It would have been a really easy day to cash the chips in and call it a day, and they didn’t. I think that’s something that we can continue to build off.”
SESSION I (SHORT COURSE)
Sophomore Emily Hetzer earned the first victory of the day for the Tigers with a first-place finish in the 1,000-meter freestyle. Hetzer swam a 9:48.27 in the event, and then turned around and finished the 500-meter free in 4:44.53 to finish second.
Teammate Sonnele Oeztuerk also picked up a win for the women’s team in the 200-meter backstroke with a time of 1:56.66.
On the men’s side, sophomore Aryan Makhija won both distance events (500 and 1,000-meter free) to earn 18 points for Auburn. It was also a standout performance from freshman Jack Armstrong, who won the 100-meter free (44.69) and then swam the second leg in the 200 medley relay that took first place.
“Jack put himself in a position to win the 100 by going out the front 50,” Taylor said. “He fought hard at the end. He may have faded, but he found a way to get his hand on the wall first. And then you saw him respond again in the 200 free relay – those men capping off with a 1-3 finish in the 200 free relay was really big for our teams.”
SESSION II (LONG COURSE)
In the second session, Hetzer once again helped the Auburn women start strong with a win in the 600 free. Freshman Abbey Webb followed that with a win in the next event, the 200-meter free, as she finished in 2:00.55 on the long course.
The highlight, however, came from senior Julie Meynen who won the 100-meter free (55.53) and also swam on the two relays, the 400-meter medley and the 400-meter free, that both turned in Auburn long-course team records. The 400-meter free relay of Meynen, Claire Fisch, Abbey Webb and Jessica Merritt finished in 3:45.06 to set the program record and earn first place.
Like the women, the Auburn men started fast with wins from Makhija (600-meterfree), Christian Sztolcman (200-meter free) and Santiago Grassi (50-meter free) in the first three individual events of the night. Two events later, Grassi picked up another win in the 100-meter butterfly, finishing in 54.18, and for the first time in the meet, the Tigers took the lead.
“Santi had a big-time relay split early and then he wins the 50 free, which started to swing the meet our direction,” Taylor said. “He gets a big win in the 100 fly, and we actually took the lead at that point.”
Ultimately, Virginia pulled away over the final five events, but not without another first-place finish from Makhija in the 300-mter free, making it four wins in the four distance races.
DIVING
The Auburn divers were in Knoxville on Saturday where they competed in what was the second day of the Tennessee Diving Invitational.
Senior Alison Maillard led the way on the women’s side with another third-place finish in the 3-meter event. Maillard, who set a career high with 349.25 points in her last competition, once again scored more than 340 on Saturday with 342.60 points.
For the men, sophomore Conner Pruitt and junior Logan Andrews both made it to the finals of the 1-meter competition. Pruitt, Friday’s 3-meter champ, scored 304.45 points to finish sixth while Andrews finished in ninth place with a score of 297.20 points.
Swimming will return to the pool next Saturday when both the men’s and women’s team travel to Georgia Tech.

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