It sounds so simple when you write it out in plain, journalism-accented English: last Saturday, the Auburn men’s swimming and diving team outlasted Florida to win its 14th straight SEC championship.
And then you realize: 14 straight SEC titles. Not in tug-of-war in the 191os-1920s, not in cross country in the 50s and 60s. Today. In men’s swimming. 1997 through 2010. The last time the Auburn men failed to win an SEC title:
— Terry Bowden was not only firmly entrenched and even borderline popular as Auburn’s head football coach, he was gearing up for a run at the SEC West crown … two seasons later.
— Obligatory politics note: No one had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky. Clinton hadn’t even been elected to his second term yet.
was still a year away from being released, despite the fact that I’d swear I was listening to it on The Tiger 95.9, oh, 800 years ago.
You get the point: 14 years is a long, long time. It’s standard operating procedure to acknowledge that the mindblowing accomplishments of Auburn’s swim teams aren’t nearly acknowledged enough, and I’m as guilty as anyone. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to make amends when we have the chance.
So a quick roll call of those responsible for this latest triumph:
Brett Hawke. David Marsh got it started. Richard Quick kept it going. But this latest championship is all Hawke’s. And lest you think carrying the baton for a dynasty is an easy task, ask Jay Clark if it’s been a bowl of cherries taking over Georgia’s gymnastics program.
Gideon Louw. Senior won the 100 freestyle and anchored Auburn’s decisive win in the 400 free relay.
Kelly Marx. The SEC Male Diver of the Year won two of the three diving events and finished second in the other. Diving coach Jeff Shaffer was named the league’s diving coach of the year.
Adam Klein. Junior won the 100 breaststroke, finished second in the 200, and was part of first-place medley relay.
There were tons of others, of course. And we shouldn’t forget the women: they only posted their 14th-straight top-3 finish at the league meet.
The best part: there’s more to come. The Auburn men won’t go into nationals favored to win yet another national title–the most recent rankings I can find has them fifth–but you know Hawke will have them ready to put the same best foot forward this program always does.
No, we don’t give them as much praise as we ought to. No, we don’t follow their ups-and-downs as closely as we should. But we have to do our best to recognize their greatness when we are reminded of it, and as we were reminded this weekend: this program is and has been very, very great indeed.