ATHENS — Any national title is an incredible accomplishment, but the one Georgia Bulldogs captured Saturday night in Atlanta was truly stunning.
After finishing third in the SEC Championships last month, contending for a seventh national championship this year seemed the stuff of fantasy — to everybody but coach Jack Bauerle and his charges.
Olivia Smoliga set the pace on Saturday by breaking the school record to win the 100 freestyle title in 46.70. Then after a whole day’s worth of personal bests, the Lady Bulldogs needed only a top-six effort in the 400 free style relay to take the team crown. And they even topped that by getting second-place finish out of Smoliga, Brittanty MacLean, Meaghan Raab and Hali Flickinger in 3:10.82.
The Lady Bulldogs finished the newly configured NCAA Championships at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center with 414 points to beat out Stanford (395), Cal (358), Texas A&M (309) and Virginia (264).
“This one ranks right up there in terms of pure satisfaction,” said Bauerle, who fittingly was named national coach of the year after the meet. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a rugged meet and that it was going to take a near-perfect effort. Our ladies stood up and competed hard. They did everything we asked of them and this is truly a team championship.”
A highlights package from the NCAA championships will be broadcast on ESPNU at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29.