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Dakota Luther, a freshman, competes in the women’s 2000-yard butterfly event during a dual meet against the University of Texas Austin at the Gabrielsen Natatorium on Jan. 12, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. Luther is an accomplished swimmer, having most recently set the meet record in the 100-fly at the 2018 Summer Junior Nationals competition. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

Just before Georgia freshman Dakota Luther swims the 200-yard butterfly in her first SEC championship this week, she’ll likely be feeling some flutters of anticipation.

“Just getting the butterflies in your stomach before the race and having your team behind you, it’s really fun,” Luther said.

Luther leads the conference in the 200 butterfly, clocking in the event at 1:53.55. She’s followed in the top 10 by fellow freshman Olivia Carter’s 1:55.02 time in fourth place and senior Caitlin Casazza at 10th place with 1:57.35.

Georgia’s butterfly leaders are likely to post fast swims in all four of the championship’s fly events when the men's and women’s teams compete in the 100-yard butterfly on Thursday and the 200-yard butterfly on Friday.

On the women’s side, three Georgia athletes rank within the SEC top 10 in the 100 butterfly, as junior Veronica Burchill leads the way for the Bulldogs at No. 2 in the conference. Burchill’s 51.35 time set at the Georgia Invitational is topped only by Tennessee’s Erika Brown, who swam a 50.46 at the Tennessee Invitational in fall 2018.

Carter and Luther are separated by one-hundredth of a second in the event, landing at No. 6 (52.33) and No. 7 (52.34) respectively in the SEC 100 fly standings.

For the men, Camden Murphy sits atop conference leaderboards in both the 100 and 200 butterfly. The sophomore’s 45.47 time in the 100 ranks fourth nationally, while his 1:41.51 swim in the 200 stands at No. 3 in the country.

Murphy recorded both of the season’s top times in Gabrielsen Natatorium last fall during the Georgia Invitational. A home-pool advantage will be on Murphy’s side as he aims to avenge his freshman effort at SECs last season.

“I definitely want to get in top three in the 100 and 200 fly,” Murphy said. “I came in fifth [in the 200] and sixth [in the 100] last year, so I was a little disappointed.”

To prepare for peak performance at this year’s conference championships, Murphy took up lifting. In working with weights throughout the season, Murphy attributed his new training to improvement in the pool since he didn’t realize the value of lifting during his freshman season.

“I feel so much stronger than I did last year,” Murphy said.

In his 40th season at the helm of the Bulldogs, head coach Jack Bauerle has witnessed the likes of butterfly greats Hali Flickinger and Mary DeScenza succeed in his program years before.

Now, the new faces of Georgia butterfly competition hope to continue the legacy.

“We have a pretty storied past here in the fly,” Bauerle said. “This is not new territory for us, but it’s welcome.”

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