Georgia expands lead in NCAA women's swimming

ATLANTA (AP) Olivia Smoliga stood atop the podium for the first time in two years Thursday night with a national record, and her Georgia teammates have similar aspirations at the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships.

The Bulldogs, seeking their seventh title after winning back-to-back in 2013 and '14, lead defending champion California 174-144.5 after the first full day of competition.

Smoliga's win was no shock. She won the 50 yard freestyle in 2014 as a freshman, and bettered her performance with an NCAA-record time of 21.21 seconds.

Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle, though, sounded surprised after the Bulldogs scored in all six events at the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech.

''I'm stunned,'' he said. ''We thought we would be in maybe fourth or fifth place if we swam well, but we swam exceedingly well.''

Behind Georgia and Cal – who have combined for the previous five national titles – are Southern Cal (121.5), Virginia (118), Texas A&M (110.5) and eight-time national champion and meet co-favorite Stanford (110).

Cardinal freshman Ella Eastin also set an NCAA record when she won the 200 individual medley in 1:51.65.

However, Stanford was disqualified from the evening's first final, the 200-yard freestyle relay, when sophomore Lindsey Engel left the starting block early on her anchor leg. That cost Stanford a potential 30 points as their time of 1:26.71 would have edged Cal (1:26.8) for first place.

Instead, Cal won in 1:26.80 and Georgia finished third (1:27.53).

The Bears also scored big in the 200 IM, where Kathleen Baker, Kelly Naze and Celina Li were second, tied for fifth and eighth, respectively, for a combined 41.5 points in the event.

Stanford won the final event, the 400 medley relay with Georgia finishing fourth and Cal 10th.

Smoliga had help as senior teammates Brittany MacLean (4:33.05) and Hali Flickinger (4:33.35) finished second and third in the 500 freestyle behind two-time national champion Leah Smith of Virginia (4:31.33), Georgia sophomore Stephanie Peters finished 16th.

As The Cardinal were left to rue their narrow misfortune, Smoliga was thankful for her slim win over Cal's Farida Osman (21.46), who also broke the pool record.

''The 50 is just a start, a turn and a finish and a lot of the time it's a crapshoot, but I'm happy that I came out on top.''