COVERING THE POOL
Ten members of the Baylor Swim Club have been with SEC programs this winter, including eight who are competing this week at the league championships in Knoxville:
JR Reese Shirey (Baylor School)
SO Anna Rae Gwarjanski (Baylor School)
FR Savannah Napier (Baylor School)
JR Martin Grodski (Baylor School)
JR Brett Roberson (Heritage High)
FR Spencer Rowe (Baylor School)
JR Jordan Mauney (Baylor School)
SO Sloane Pitman (Baylor School)
SO Troy Tillman (Notre Dame)*
FR Arden Pitman (Baylor School)*
* redshirted this season
The Southeastern Conference swimming and diving championships will take place today through Saturday at the University of Tennessee.
Events will be separated by gender and various distances in the Allan Jones Aquatic Center, though they could just as easily be divided by those who did and didn't swim at Baylor School. There have been 10 products of the Baylor Swim Club this winter in SEC swimming, including eight Baylor School graduates.
"We're one of the best swimming programs year in and year out in the country, and the SEC is one of the best if not the best conference in the country year in and year out," Baylor coach Dan Flack said Tuesday. "To me, especially with the proximity of it all, it seems like a very logical progression that the numbers would be as they are. I'm not surprised by it at all."
Nor is University of Georgia swim coach Jack Bauerle. In his 30th season leading the Lady Bulldogs and his 26th with the Bulldogs, a laughing Bauerle described his relationship with Baylor as a "long, entangled mess."
Georgia has three former Baylor Swim Club standouts -- Martin Grodzki, Spencer Rowe and Brett Roberson -- on its roster, with Grodzki and Rowe having graduated from Baylor and Roberson from Heritage High. Grodzki will be seeking titles in Thursday's 500-yard freestyle and Saturday's 1,650 free, and he also will be seeking time to visit with former teammates.
"It's definitely fun being able to see everybody again," Grodzki said. "I have a couple of friends who swim at Harvard who I don't get to see that often, but we swim a lot of SEC teams twice."
A German resident who boarded two years at Baylor, Grodzki is the top seed in the 500 and the 1,650 -- also called the mile. He is seeking his first SEC title in the 500 after finishing fifth as a freshman and second last year, but he is a two-time league champion in the mile and is ranked No. 1 in the NCAA in that event.
Georgia owns the top three seeds in the mile and has won that race in the SEC seven consecutive years.
"The mile has its upsides and downsides," Grodzki said. "It's one of the harder races to train for just because we have to stay in the water longer than everyone else. On the other hand, it is not as competitive as other events, so it's a little easier to do well in.
"It's also nice to know that if you mess up your start or one of the turns, you still have a whole 15 minutes to make it up."
Grodzki has a time of 14:49.33 in the mile and 4:18.16 in the 500 free, and he is seeded 14th in the 400 individual medley (3:56.47). His schedule after Knoxville includes next month's NCAAs in Seattle and the German Olympic Trials.
"Martin was only supposed to come here for a year, and he was good, but he was nothing amazing when he got here," Flack said. "He got a ton better, and he went back and won their equivalent of the Junior Nationals. All of a sudden, I had four or five German folks contacting me about wanting to come to school, and I was like, 'You have to speak at least some English.'
"There were some kids that didn't speak any, and I just told them I didn't think that was going to work."
Grodzki isn't expected to be the only Baylor alum scoring for Georgia, as Rowe is seeded seventh in the 200 breaststroke (2:00.73) and 11th in the 100 breast (55.89).
Looking to aid Tennessee is the former Baylor tandem of Sloane Pitman and Jordan Mauney. Pitman is seeded ninth in the women's 50 free (22.85) and 14th in the 100 free (50.12), while Mauney is seeded 15th in men's 3-meter diving and 17th in the 1-meter.
The top 16 places score in a meet that will be televised by ESPNU on a tape-delay basis. The men's meet is scheduled to air Feb. 27 at 5 p.m., and the women's meet is set for the same time a day later.
Flack is overseeing a district meet this weekend at Baylor for younger swimmers, including his two children, so sneaking up to Knoxville could be difficult. Not that being unable to attend would override the overall reward.
"It feels great seeing these kids do so well," Flack said. "I've got a lot going on, but I would really love to get up there."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...