INDIANAPOLIS — With tears of happiness in her eyes, Lindsay Gendron relished the moment of victory with her teammates.
The outcome of Tennessee’s fate came down to the wire as Gendron anchored the 400-yard freestyle relay, the final race Saturday at the NCAA swimming and diving championships at the IUPUI Natatorium.
Gendron didn’t disappoint. Caroline Simmons, Faith Johnson, Kelsey Floyd and Gendron set a Tennessee school record in 3 minutes and 12.07 seconds to finish fourth.
More importantly, it pushed the Lady Vols into third place in the team standings with 325.5 points to finish just two points ahead of Texas A&M. It’s the best finish ever for the Lady Vols.
“I’m just in complete shock right now,” Gendron said. “We started off the first night with a bang, and that was awesome. Coming into the second day we weren’t as strong, but we just came back and improved. That’s what Tennessee’s all about.”
Georgia claimed the title with 477 points and California was second with 393 points.
Tori Lamp posted her third best platform score of 335.35 points in the preliminaries to notch the top spot, allowing her the advantage of diving last.
In the finals, however, Haley Ishimatsu of Southern California gave an almost flawless performance with 396.75 points and an NCAA record.
Lamp closed her five-dive routine with a backward two and one-half somersault and one and-one-half twist — one of the most difficult dives in her repertoire. Her score of 328.6 points guaranteed her second place once again.
“I feel like every competition I’m learning more and more about what to do and how to improve,” the Bearden High School graduate said.
Lamp and Jodie McGroarty combined for 72 points of UT’s overall score.
“I’m really proud of Tori,” UT diving coach Dave Parrington said. “She did a phenomenal job all weekend making all three finals. There’s no other diver in the meet that did that, so I’m just really proud of her right now.”
Parrington and Lamp were rewarded for their efforts. Parrington was named the National Diving Coach of the Year and Lamp was named the National Diver of the Year.
After the Lady Vols failed to qualify swimmers in the finals of the 200 backstroke and 200 butterfly, coach Matt Kredich was worried it would be another slow morning for the Lady Vols on the day that mattered most.
But Gendron offered a glimpse of hope in the 100 free and served as a bright spot on the day.
“I’ve never been through so many high-highs and deflating lows at a meet,” Kredich said. “If you take a look at the final score, every point counted, and she (Gedron) made the top eight by about a tenth of a second. She just finished. That’s what our team does. They fight and scrap.”
Gendron slid into the sixth seed at 48.18 to beat her career-best time of 48.27. The finish made her a perfect three-for-three in qualifying for the A-finals in individual events.
Gendron wound up eighth in the finals in 48.56.
“All I have to do is look at their smiles and the tears on my team’s faces, and that’s worth it for me,” Kredich said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of Tennessee, and I want all of Tennessee nation to be proud of this team.”