Advancing in Auburn

Pair of Dores make finals as SEC Swimming & Diving Championships hit midway point

AUBURN, Ala. — Kailia Utley and Mercedes Traba each put forth record-breaking efforts on Thursday to advance to finals and lead Vanderbilt swimming on the third day of the SEC Championships at the James E. Martin Aquatic Center.

Utley moved on after setting a new school standard in the 100 fly while Traba qualified in the 400 IM, with the latter establishing a new mark in the morning before lowering that time at the night session of the competition.

“There were some really good events for us today, the ladies all did a good job of getting in and competing well to put themselves in situations to have some great swims,” head coach Jeremy Organ said. “To have Mercedes and Kailia get themselves in position to come back tonight and earn some points for the team was huge. With Mercedes we made a couple of adjustments to the front half of her swim because she obviously has a really good freestyle to come home, she did an amazing job of getting that set up just the way she needed to in order to make sure she finished strong for a great all-around swim.”

“It was a great time, I’m really happy with that,” said Traba. “I didn’t think I would be able to go that fast in the morning so I was pretty surprised, but I knew there were some technical adjustments I could fix for tonight. Before the race tonight I talked with the coaches and we figured out what the plan would be, which was to keep it a little more relaxed in the front half so I could really hammer the back half. Other than that, it was just going out there and ripping it. When I touched the wall I was pretty surprised to see the 16, I thought I was going to go 17 high so I was really happy when I saw that.”

“I put a little more emphasis on the 200 fly as opposed to the 100 fly, for this race I was trying to work on my underwaters and give the 100 fly everything I had,” Utley said. “I’ve been at the exact same time to the 100th of a second my last four years swimming, so this morning I felt like I was ready to finally drop because it’s been a long time coming. I dove in and tried to hit my kick count and stay a little long to make sure I had the power and sprint as best I could. I’ve never made the 100 final so it’s nice to have been able to do that, now going into the 200 I have a little more confidence that I can take it out a little faster. The goal will be to take it out faster than I normally go and see how that plays out.”

The SEC Championships will continue with preliminary heats in the 200 fly, 100 back and 100 breast starting at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

Meet Highlights
-Traba became the first Commodore to advance to finals at this year’s competition when she placed 21st in the prelims of the 400 IM to begin the day.
-In the 100 fly prelims that followed, Utley finished 16th to move on to the Consolation Final of the event.
-Ellie Taliaferro missed finals in the 200 free by less than half a second, coming in 26th place in a field of 66 swimmers.
-Traba earned a fourth-place finish in the C Final of the 400 IM in the opening race of the night session.
-Utley would return to touch the wall eighth in her final to record 11 points for the Commodores.

-Traba’s 4:18.43 time in the 400 IM prelims was nearly a second better than the previous standard set in 2015 at the SEC Championships.
-The junior turned in a time of 4:16.87 in finals at night to not only lower the mark in the event in the program’s record books but also meet the NCAA B Standard.
-Utley became the second individual in school history to finish the 100 fly in less than 53 seconds, recording her second school record with a mark of 52.92 in prelim heats that met the NCAA B Standard.
-It’s the third year in a row that Utley has advanced to a final at the SEC Championships.
-Sophia Kosturos (54.16) and Jenna Ravarino (55.24) moved into fifth and eighth place, respectively, on Vandy’s all-time performer list in the 100 fly as well, with the latter doing so after recording a career-best time in prelims.
-After touching the wall in 1:50.85 in the 200 free, Madelyn Porter entered the top 10 all-time in the event at Vanderbilt.
-Kate Heintz finished that race in 1:51.65, the fastest mark she has posted her first season at the collegiate level.
-Meredith DiPasquale recorded a 55.66 mark in the 100 fly while Emily Carpenter and Kendall Hall touched the wall in the 200 free in 1:52.13 and 1:53.66, respectively, as all three posted their lowest times of the campaign.