KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Fresh off a national ranking debut this season, the No. 17 H2Okie women took the top-three spots in the 500 freestyle event to finish day one of the three-day Volunteer Invitational in second-place among a competitive array of SEC teams, while both Tech squads earned season-best times in nearly each event.
Erika Hajnal, Kelly deMarrais and Lauren Ritter finished 1-2-3 in the 500 free, each qualifying for the NCAA “B” standard mark with a time under 4:52.41. Hajnal’s winning time of 4:47.82 was a season-best for the H2Okies. deMarrais took a close second in 4:47.88, followed by Ritter in 4:50.79.
The women then added a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay, as Emily Ferguson, Kaleigh Gomes, Abby Barney and Steffi Drechsel teamed up to post a season-best finish in 1:34.26. Gomes and Ferguson would also post respective third and fourth-place marks in the 50 freestyle, as Gomes’ sprinted her way to the finish in 23.38, followed by Ferguson in 23.74. Kentucky took first in both events.
The Wildcats would also dominate in the men’s 200 free relay, taking the top two spots. The No. 23 H2Okies topped their previous season-best performance of 1:23.55 with a time of 1:23.05, as Ryne Francis, Richard Ulatowski, Karl Botha and Stephen Hawkins took fifth among a competitive field.
Philip LaRosa led the H2Okies in the men’s 500 freestyle, touching in at 4:32.81, a season-best mark for the sophomore. Blake Trabuchi-Downey was right behind LaRosa in 4:34.15. Bryan Uncur, Caglar Gokbulut and Griffin Lutterbein also posted season-best individual marks in the 500 free. Richard Ulatowski added a season-best finish in the 50 freestyle in 20.87.
Alabama then took the top spots in both the men’s and women’s 200 IM events, reaching NCAA “B” cuts in each event. Jace Howanitz posted a sixth-place finish in 2:04.73 to lead the Tech women, the quickest time for a H2Okie this season. Abby Barney was the next Tech swimmer to finish in 23.91. On the men’s side, Greg Mahon posted the top finish for the H2Okies in the 200 IM with a time of 1:53.43.
The men would close the day with a sixth-place finish in the 400 medley relay in 3:21.02, while the women took seventh in 3:50.19 in their first time competing in the event this season.
The diving events were conducted as a separate meet. Mikey McDonald led the men with a fourth-place finish in the three-meter with 376.95 points after taking second during the preliminary round, while Sarah Milton led the Tech women in the one-meter finals, securing the fourth-place spot with 270.20 points.
After the first day of the Invitational, the Tech women sit in second with 277 points, while the men are in fourth with 186 points. Kentucky leads both the men and women with 362 and 326.5 points, respectively.
The H2Okies will continue competition on Friday, with preliminary races beginning at 10 am and finals starting at 6 pm.
For updates on Virginia Tech swimming & diving, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_SwimDive).