Despite being a freshman, Tennessee men's swimmer Sean Lehane is quickly learning his way around the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.
During the first day of the Tennessee Invitational on Thursday, he also swiftly found his way through a new event — the 500-yard freestyle.
Despite the fact he has not competed in the long-distance race in several years, he managed to win it in 4 minutes, 31.92 seconds — the fastest time at UT this season.
"I wasn't really expecting to go that fast since I had not swam it since I was 15," the Naperville, Ill., resident said. "To get the win is really good."
His victory, along with a first by Troy Tillman in the 50 free (20.68), helped the Tennessee men take a 404-279 lead over runner-up Kentucky after the first of the three-day event.
For the UT women, a first by senior Kelsey Floyd in the 500 free (4:48.26) and a win by freshman Faith Johnson in the 50 free (23.17) propelled the Lady Vols to a 427-228 lead over second-place Duke. Kentucky (193) is in third, while Colorado State (176) is in fourth.
While the field is not as large as in past Tennessee Invitationals, UT men's and women's swim coach Matt Kredich still felt satisfaction at the first-day performances.
"I thought it was a really good day," he said. "(The field) is not quite as competitive (as in past years), but it's what we need right now."
The Tennessee men and women also won both the 200 free relay and the 400 medley relay.
While Lehane is still learning what his capabilities are, the UT coaches apparently have more of an idea.
"Sean is a multi-dimensional swimmer and I'm not sure he's discovered that as much as we've discovered that at practice," said Kredich. "I'm really impressed with the poise he had tonight."
Lehane said he usually is not one to swim the longer distances, but he tried to focus hard for the 500 Thursday after learning he would be swimming in it.
"I was looking forward to it to see how fast I can go," he said.
In diving, Central High graduate and senior Brent Sterling (341.65 points) finished second in the 1-meter to Greg Ferrucci of Kentucky (369.95), who is considered one of the top divers in the country.
UT's Jodie Mcgroarty meanwhile, had a strong chance to win the women's 3-meter. But Kentucky's Christa Cabot was saved, not by a bell, but a whistle.
While on the board, she heard a loud whistle noise that affected her dive, so she appealed and was able to repeat her dive. As a result, she edged Mcgroarty, 338.25 to 334.70.
Despite the turn of events, UT diving coach Dave Parrington was still pleased to finish second and third in each event.
"For what we are trying to do, I was pretty happy," he said.
John Shearer is a freelance contributor.