As Texas A&M continues its journey through its inaugural athletic season in the Southeastern Conference, there’s still much for Aggies to learn about the “Conference of Champions” yet this much is certain: the SEC loves its swimming.
Enter the Student Recreation Natatorium amidst Texas A&M’s first on-campus SEC championship event, and you will be overwhelmed by a wall of sound. Chants of “Go Gators” and “L-S-U,” among others, ring as clearly as they would in any football stadium – added confirmation that the Aggies sit squarely within the most dominant athletic conference in the country.
The swimming atmosphere, not unlike most SEC atmospheres in any sport, is unparalleled. This environment combines with what is arguably the nation’s most competitive amateur swimming product to produce one of the most magnificent spectacles in collegiate sports.
Yes, the SEC Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship delivers in spades. And if you haven’t already attended, it’s happening right in the Aggies’ backyard.
Texas A&M men’s swimming head coach Jay Holmes said he was thrilled the conference chose Texas A&M as the location for its championship event.
“[The SEC] wanted to put an event on our campus as soon as they could while this event hadn’t been totally planned yet, and they said ‘Hey let’s put it at A&M,’” Holmes said. “Of course we love that. I think it shows off our facility. People like coming to school here and like coming to meets here. It’s a great environment. We have great seating for the fans and I know the fans appreciate it.”
And while the SEC might collectively possess the strongest swimming competition in the country, Texas A&M brings its own share of swimming tradition. After all, the women’s team hoisted a conference championship trophy only a year ago, and both men’s and women’s squads sent a combined 11 athletes to the 2012 Olympic Games.
A former Olympian and current Texas A&M swimmer, junior Camille Adams, said she was impressed by the atmosphere in the SEC.
“Friends of mine from some of the other SEC schools said [the SEC Championship] is a big deal, and it’s about a big a deal as the NCAA’s,” Adams said. “It’s exciting and there’s a lot of energy. It definitely exceeded all my expectations.”
One familiar foe, SEC rival LSU, was already familiar with Texas A&M and its facilities.
Nevertheless, Tigers’ head coach Dave Geyer said he was appreciative of the speed the Aggies’ Student Recreation Natatorium gives the swimmers.
“We’ve come out here before for dual meets with Texas A&M and we know it’s a fast facility,” Geyer said. “That’s always the most important thing because everyone comes to this meet to qualify for the NCAAs and you want to have a fast facility to do that. A&M certainly provides that for us.”
SEC coaches were not only impressed with their new brother’s facilities, but also the level of competition Texas A&M and Missouri brought to the conference. The Aggies and Tigers, after all, have already claimed their share of individual SEC winners.
Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said he likes the bump in competition.
“It’s incredible. I think it’s great. Texas A&M’s a great team and Missouri is, too,” Bauerle said. “It made the meet that much better. The SEC meet was the best meet in the country beforehand, now it’s even better than it was.”
Watch the action of the SEC Championships live here.
Story by Chandler Smith, a junior communication major