GAINESVILLE, Florida, January 21. THE No. 13 Gator men’s swimming and diving team and No. 9 women’s squad sent their senior swimmers off in style, as they each nabbed victories over No. 7/7 Auburn in front of a full house Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium.
“There were real quality performances by all of our swimmers today,” said head coach Gregg Troy. “I am really proud of how every one of our swimmers raced the whole way throughout the meet today. With it being set up in a long course format, it was a little bit different, a little bit more tough, but it gave swimmers with National aspirations to see where they stand.”
It was a thrilling finish as the men’s 153-147 victory all came down to the final race: the 400 freestyle relay. With the help of Brad deBorde (Longwood, Fla.), Dan Wallace (North Berwick, Scotland), Matt Norton (Port Orange, Fla.) and Matt Curby (Oviedo, Fla.) the Gators were able to clinch the W and knock off the No. 7 Tigers. A comfortable 162-136 advantage allowed the Gator women to dish the Tigers just their second loss of the season.
The Gator men remain undefeated on the year with a 5-0-1 record and 2-0-1 tally in the SEC, with the women improving to a 7-1 dual meet record (3-1 SEC), with their lone loss of the year to No. 1 Georgia.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to swim against a program like Auburn, its great. They have quality athletes that are extremely well coached, and no matter when we face them, it’s always a great opportunity to race against them,” explained Troy.
The Gators combined to win 17 events, and sweep four races as sophomores Elizabeth Beisel (North Kingstown, R.I.) and Marcin Cieslak (Warsaw, Poland) led Florida with three wins apiece.
Beisel swept both back events when she stopped the clock in 1:03.16 in the 100 and 2:12.79 in the 200, and added her final win in the 200 IM with a sizzling time of 2:17.59 – four seconds ahead of teammate Teresa Crippen (Conshohocken, Pa.) who touched in 2:21.81, and also backed her U.S. National Teammate in the 200 back (2:16.46), for a pair of second place finishes
Additionally, Crippen added an individual victory in her final home meet as a Gator when she finished the 200 fly in 2:13.44, nearly five seconds ahead of the remaining competition.
Beisel’s counterpart, Cieslak also accounted for an event sweep when he took the 100 (54.86) and 200 (2:01.18) fly titles. His speedy finish in the 200 fly was followed by teammates Wallace and Cameron Martin (Clearwater, Fla.) for a complete Gator, first-through-third, finish.
While he didn’t lead the team in wins, it was freshman Carlos Omana (Miami, Fla.) who turned the meet in favor of the Gators, not once, but twice in their hard fought battle against Auburn.
He accomplished the feat first when he won the 800 free in 8:22.22 to give the Gators a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish until halfway through the meet. Then again, at a pivotal moment when the Gators trailed by seven points with just four races remaining, Omana pushed into the pad at 4:03.68 in the 400 free to give Florida a two-point advantage in the meet.
It wasn’t until the 200 free, the third race of the day, that the women gained the advantage as a trio of Gator swimmers in Ellese Zalewski (Melbourne, Australia) – with an Olympic Trial Qualifying cut, Jamie Bohunicky (Gainesville, Fla.) and Natasha Fung (Edmonton, Canada) finished one-two-three in the event clocking in at 2:01.96, 2:03.26 and 2:03.45, respectively.
The ladies’ lead was immediately followed when three members of the men’s squad in: Wallace, Connor Signorin (East Windsor, N.J.) and Scott Heil (Skillman, N.J.) combined to sweep the event. Signorin and Heil followed with times of 1:55.91 and 1:57.40, respectively, to close out the one-two punch for Florida.
Four other Gators combined for six individual wins and two event sweeps.
Four-time SEC Freshman of the week Matt Elliott (Peoria, Ill.) continued his dominance in the breaststroke as he went on to claim the 100 (1:04.23) and 200 (2:20.98) title, while Hilda Luthersdottir (Hafnarfjordur, Iceland) accomplished the same feat for the women’s squad. Luthersdottir, touched in Olympic Qualifying Trial cuts in both the 100 and 200 breast in 1:10.89 and 2:33.44, respectively.
Senior Sarah Bateman (Orlando, Fla.) continued her stellar senior campaign, and remained undefeated in the 50 free when she captured the title in a nail-biting race which saw her touch the wall in 25.61, just before Auburn’s Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace (25.83) – the leading 50 freestyler in the SEC. Bateman also added a pair of second-place finishes in the 100 free (57.71) and 100 fly (1:01.41).
Gainesville native Jamie Bohunicky (Gainesville, Fla.) notched the top-spot in the 400 free when she clocked in a Trials Cut 4:17.60.
Both the women’s and men’s 200 medley relay teams opened the meet with second-place performances. The women’s group of Beisel, Luthersdottir, Zalewski and Bateman finished in 1:56.28 for the points, with the men’s quartet of Christian Homer (Trinidad & Tobego), Elliott, Cieslak and deBorde timing in at 1:44.38.
The final event of the day, the women’s 400 freestyle relay, was simply the dotting of the I and the crossing of the T for Florida’s victory over Auburn, as Zalewski, Fung, Crippen and Bohunicky combined to touch the wall in 3:49.97 for second.
Troy explained that despite the fulfilling victory, “I can’t really say that we are exactly where we want to be right now, because we’re not, but it was good enough for today.”
On the boards, senior Kaylee Doback (Brandon, Fla.) secured points for the Gators in both the 3- (310.05) and 1-meter competition (258.45) for second and third finishes, respectively.
Junior Sean Saley (Pompano Beach, Fla.) followed his career-meet last weekend against FAU, with another stellar performance against Auburn to keep Florida in the hunt for the win. Saley posted a score of 359.03 off the 1-meter boards and totaled 327.83 points in 3-meter competition. Teammate Chris Jones (Palm City, Fla.) also contributed with a second-place finish off the 3-meter springboard (335.55).
The Florida Gators will close out dual competition next weekend, when they travel to SEC opponent Tennessee over the weekend. The undefeated men’s squad will take on the No. 21 Volunteers on Friday, Jan. 27 at 4 p.m., while the Women will face the No. 14 Lady Volunteers on Saturday for a matinee performance at noon. Both meets will be held at the Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tenn.
Gator fans are encouraged to follow the swimming and diving program via Twitter @GatorZoneSwimDV and Facebook.
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