AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn got a pair of third-place finishes in its two individual events on Thursday night and stands in fifth place after day one of the 2012 NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships.
The Tigers have 94 points and are the highest-placing Southeastern Conference team so far, three points ahead of Georgia. Four Pac-12 schools lead the overall standings. California, who won both relays in record time, leads the overall race with 132 points, followed by Stanford and Southern California (both with 118) and Arizona (107).
"On the (team scoring), we're ahead of where we want to be," Auburn head coach Brett Hawke said. "At a meet like this, you always get some points you don't expect, and you always lose some you don't expect. It's just the way it is. I'm pretty happy with where we are right now, in fifth place. We know it's a long meet. There are six sessions; that's just two. We've got a long way to go, and we're going to come back tomorrow and fight in the morning."
Senior diver Vennie Dantin provided the highlight of the night for the Tigers with a third-place finish in the 1-meter final, scoring a school-record total of 337.60. It marked the highest finish by an Auburn women's diver in any NCAA diving event since 2006, and it provided much-needed points to the Tigers' team score.
"One-meter is always such a tough competition," Dantin said. "Most of the girls do similar if not all the same dives. It's just a matter of very few points most of the time. Just to be able to stay consistent is what Jeff has taught us all season. I'm happy with the outcome."
Head diving coach Jeff Shaffer was pleased with the result as well.
"It was a great performance," Shaffer said. "She did an outstanding list in the prelims to put herself in a position to dive in one of the most competitive finals I've witnessed. It came down to the fifth and sixth round with anybody really having a chance to win. I'm so proud of the way she stepped up and competed. It was a personal-best for her on one-meter, and that's the way you want to go out as a senior."
Fellow senior Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace was unable to defend her 2011 NCAA title in the 50 freestyle, taking third place with a time of 21.65. California's Liv Jensen won the title with a 21.48; Vanderpool-Wallace, however, set the Auburn pool record in preliminaries with a 21.46.
"In the quest to try and shave hundredths of seconds off and swim phenomenal times, you try different things," Hawke said of Vanderpool-Wallace's third-place finish. "Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. She's giving it 100 percent out there. I feel like in a way I messed her up a little bit. She's always giving her best effort."
Vanderpool-Wallace still has two individual swims left, the 100 butterfly on Friday and the 100 free – the event in which she owns the NCAA record – on Saturday.
"I'm going to come back in the 100 and swim as fast as I can," Vanderpool-Wallace said. "I'm disappointed, more in myself than losing the race. I went into the race knowing it was my start that I needed to work on, and I still didn't do what I needed to do. So I'm definitely motivated for the 100 freestyle, that race is my baby. I'm not going to lose that."
Junior Hannah Riordan took an 11th-place finish in the 50 free, swimming a personal-best 22.15 in the consolation final for the fifth-fastest time in Auburn history.
Auburn's 200 freestyle relay team started the night off with a fifth-place finish in a school-record time of 1:27.82, as Vanderpool-Wallace, Riordan, Haley Krakoski and Emily Bos cut another .04 off what was already a school record from the morning. Stanford set a new Auburn pool record, winning the title in 1:26.85.
The final race of the night, the 400 medley relay, saw the Auburn team of Bos, Lauren Norberg, Olivia Scott and Vanderpool-Wallace post a time of 3:30.38, just shy of their school-record mark from the morning prelims, to earn another fifth-place finish. California lowered its own NCAA record in the event with a time of 3:28.10.
Day two of the NCAA Championships gets underway at 11 a.m. Friday with prelims; finals begin at 7 p.m. Events include the 200 medley relay, 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, 3-meter diving and 800 freestyle relay. Single-session, standing-room-only tickets are available at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center box office. Fans can follow free live video and live stats through NCAA.com, and live updates will be posted throughout the day on Twitter by following @AuburnSwimming and using the hashtag #NCAASD.