There was a certain toughness to the Auburn swimming and diving team on the second day of the Auburn Fall Invitational as they battled Florida on both the men’s and women’s sides in Thursday night’s finals.
“I’m really pleased and excited with the performances tonight,” Auburn Head Coach Gary Taylor said. “I thought we lacked a little bit of energy this morning, and I really challenged the team to come back out tonight and be vocal, be energetic.
“I thought we had some really good performances leading off with our women’s 200 medley relay getting the win in that event. Really good swims by Kensley Merritt, Carly Cummings, Abby Gibbons and then coming home with AJ Kutsch – 1:37.53, a really solid performance for this time of the year.”
The women carried that momentum into the 400 IM, where freshman Hannah Ownbey swam a lifetime-best 4:12.50 to finish third. Junior Emily Hetzer placed fourth in the 400 IM and then took fourth again two events later, leading Auburn in the 200 freestyle.
The Tigers scored another victory in the women’s 100 butterfly with senior Jewels Harris earning an NCAA B cut time at 52.76.
“We got a big performance tonight out of Jewels Harris getting our win individually on that end,” Taylor said. “Abby Gibbons runner-up in that event as well, so that was an important and eventful swim there. Exciting to get that.”
On the men’s side, junior Brogan Davis swam a lifetime best (48.11) to finish fourth in the 100 butterfly. He touched just behind teammate Matthew Yish, who took third in the event at 48.08.
The Auburn men enjoyed another strong performance in the 200 freestyle with freshman Mikkel Gadgaard, junior Christian Sztolcman and freshman Michael Bonson finishing 2-3-4.
For the second straight day, freshman Reid Mikuta showed off his ability. After an impressive swim on the second leg of the medley relay, he backed it up with a second-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, where he paced the Tigers with a time of 53.28.
“What can you say about Reid Mikuta, our freshman? He showed out on the medley relay earlier, comes back tonight and goes toe-to-toe with the SEC champion from last season,” Taylor said. “53.2, solid performance by the freshman right at his lifetime best. I thought he was backed up well in the A final by the other freshman, Alejandro Flores.”
In the 200 backstroke, Merritt and Lleyton Smith both placed second for their respective teams. Merritt, a freshman, swam a 52.48 to lead off the winning 200 medley relay and then followed that with a 53.57 in the championship final of the 100 backstroke.
The Tigers capped the night with two second-place finishes in the 800 freestyle relay.
Junior Conner Pruitt placed first for the second straight day, winning Thursday’s 3-meter event with 405.83 points. Sophomore Skip Donald finished third for the Tigers with 340.88 points, narrowly missing his personal best, while senior Logan Andrews was fourth.
For the women, sophomore Ashlynn Sullivan followed her victory Wednesday with a second-place finish on 1-meter. Sullivan scored 237.90 points, edging out teammate Maia Goldstein, who took third with 235.73 points. Sophomore Gretchen Wensuc finished fourth.
The Tigers and Gators will wrap up the Auburn Fall Invitational on Friday with prelims beginning at 9 a.m. CT, followed by diving at 11 a.m. and finals at 4 p.m. The swimming events include the 1650 free, the 200 back, the 100 free, the 200 breast, the 200 fly and the 400 freestyle relay. The divers will compete on platform.