Kentucky Swimming & Diving Ready For Another Historic Season
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Last year was one for the history books for the University of Kentucky swimming and diving program, and the Wildcats are eager to build upon the successful 2020-21 campaign heading into the upcoming season.
UK officially kicks off the new season tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET for the annual blue/white intrasquad meet at the Lancaster Aquatic Center, and the 2021-22 schedule features several matchups with many of the nation’s premier programs. The Wildcats will face six teams that all finished in the top 15 of the final CSCAA poll last year, with five of those squads posting top-15 finishes at their respective NCAA Championships in 2021.
“We’re excited to get the season underway, and we have a competitive schedule this year that will expose the team to high-level talent to prepare them for the SEC and NCAA Championships,” said head coach Lars Jorgensen, now in his ninth year at the helm. “The women are ready for the challenge of defending their conference title, and the men are eager to continue moving up the rankings as we compete at the highest level.”
Last season saw the Wildcat women clinch their first Southeastern Conference title in program history with 1,124 points, besting the previous record of points scored by 136.5. UK collected 12 medals at the conference meet — three gold, three silver, and six bronze — in addition to breaking five school records. The 800 freestyle relay team of Izzy Gati, Riley Gaines, Kaitlynn Wheeler, and Sophie Sorenson combined to give UK their first SEC relay title since 2007, while Lauren Poole (400 IM) and Gaines (200 free) were individual champions. Ten women also landed on All-SEC teams, including five on the first team.
The men’s team also experienced success at the conference meet in 2021, finishing seventh with 759 points. Their point total surpassed the previous program record of 724 points scored the year prior and was the fifth consecutive year the men’s team has bested the school mark. Zane Rosely and Sam Duncan both landed on the All-SEC Freshman Team while Danny Zhang earned a spot on the All-SEC Second Team.
Kentucky is in an excellent position to continue making their presence known in the SEC. The women’s program has returned all eight relay swimmers for the 2021-22 campaign, as well as 18 of the 20 point scorers and 803 of the 874 individual points accumulated a year ago. The men’s team is also in a great spot to continue moving up the rankings, as five of the eight relay swimmers, 11 of the 15 point scorers, and 330 of the 559 individual points scored are back in Lexington once again.
A school-record 14 UK women were invited to the 2021 NCAA Championships en route to besting the previous record of 10 and tying for the third-most swimmers invited. Those 14 Wildcats combined for 35 entries total, which was also a school record. UK finished 11th with 152 points at NCAAs, marking their best team finish in school history as well as the most points scored, and also their fourth-straight year in the top-15. Kentucky collected 23 All-America honors – eight First Team and 15 Honorable Mention – for yet another school record, while the 800 free relay earned silver and Poole took bronze in the 400 IM.
On the men’s side, two swimmers and three divers were invited to compete at the NCAA Championships for a combined 10 individual entries, finishing 30th with 14 points. Rosely became the first UK male freshman swimmer since 2013 to earn a bid to the national meet while divers Zhang and recent graduate Chase Lane earned All-American Honorable Mention honors. Mason Wilby also claimed the first All-American Honorable Mention of his career by finishing 13th in the 200 fly to break his own school record.
While UK boasts ample experience with its returning swimmers and divers, the team also has added plenty of talent with the freshman class. Twenty newcomers will suit up in the blue and white for the first time this season, including 12 newbies on the women’s team and eight for the men.
In total, the freshman class represents 12 different states — Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin — and two countries — the United States and Spain. Additionally, 20 percent of the new faces are Bluegrass State natives.
“We’re excited to welcome this freshman class to Lexington,” said Jorgensen. “The coaching staff is eager to see them step up and stand out on Friday at the intrasquad meet, which will be an excellent opportunity for the newcomers to compete for travel spots and conference team selections.”
Leading the newcomers and the returners alike are the team captains for the 2021-22 season. For the second straight year, the women’s squad will again be led by Bailey Bonnett, Gaines, Gati, Kyndal Knight, and Sorenson. Wilby will captain the men’s team for yet another year, joining Duncan and Max Hawton in the role.
This past summer was one to remember for UK swimming and diving, as nine swimmers qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials. Sophie Sorenson was a two-time semifinalist in both the 100-meter and 200-meter back, while Gillian Davey advanced to the 200-meter breast semifinal. Three divers participated in the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, where Lane was a finalist on the 10-meter platform and Knight qualified for the 1-meter springboard semifinals.
Just as they excel in the pool and on the boards, the Wildcats also experience success in the classroom. Twenty-three women and 12 men found themselves on the 2021 SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll while 16 freshmen landed on the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll. Gati was also selected to the 2020-21 CoSIDA Academic All-District Women’s At-Large Team and 24 Wildcats were named CSCAA Scholar All-Americans.
The Wildcats continue to leave their mark on the conference and national stage both in and out of the pool. Selected from more than 600 candidates, alumna Asia Seidt was named the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year, becoming the first Wildcat to ever earn the prestigious honor. For excelling academically and athletically, Seidt was one of two recipients to be awarded the Walter Byers Graduate Scholarship and Lane received the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.