GAINESVILLE, FL., October 11. STILL in the hunt for the national championship despite a loss and with a Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback at the controls…
Whoops, wrong sport!
Coach Greg Troy's Fightin' Florida Gators' women's and men's SWIMMING teams open their 2002-03 season this afternoon at the O'Connell Center Natorium against Southeastern Conference foe Lousiana State.
The Gators are defending SEC women's champs and finished runners-up to Auburn on the men's side last season. Florida's title was its 16th since the SEC began sponsoring a women's championship 20 years ago and its first since 1996. It was also Troy's first conference title, women or men.
At NCAAs this past March, the men were fourth overall — highest finish in more than a half-decade — while the Lady Gators were seventh at The Big Show.
Florida has never lost to LSU on either the women's or men's side, sporting a 14-zip against the Tiger men and a perfecto 8-0 on the women's side.
Florida's ladies are led by All-America distance star Janelle Atkinson, a Jamaican Olympian who was runner-up in the 1650 free at NCAAs; plus Sara McLarty and Meredith Green, who both finaled too.
The Gators also feature defending SEC 200 fly champ Becky Harper, who was third at NCAAs, and South African Olympian Renate Du Plessis, a contender in
the 100 fly.
On the men's side, defending NCAA 200 free champ Adam Sioul — a surprise champ if ever there was one — is back to prove his win as an unheralded freshman last season was hardly a fluke. In that race he beat defending champ Klete Keller of USC, who the previous
day had won the 500 free. Keller is also American record-holder in the 400 meter freestyle, but the Sydney Olympian who has dropped out of SC to train for the Athens Olympics at the University of Michigan.
under Coach Jon Urbancek — although he will not swim for the Wolverines, having turned pro.
Sioul's 1:34.67 pr ranks him 19th on the all-time performers' list and third on the all-time Gator chart. The top Florida time belongs to Troy Dalbey (1:33.28 from the '87 NCAAs at Austin, site of this year's meet). That swim still ranks the former Gator great third and fourth, respectively, on the all-time performers-performances ranking list, and it would have been a record save for the fact that Cal's Matt Biodni went the current American record of 1:33.03 in that same race!
Other Gators to watch include defending SEC 100-200 backstroke champ Kris Kellam (1:42.48 with a 47.87 100 pr); sprinter Carlos Jayme (prs 19.76-43.05) and backstroker-flyer Gabe Mangabeira, who joined Florida in mid-season and recorded a 47.52 100 fly at NCAAs plus 47.68 in the 100 back.
In winning his pair of titles at SECs last February, Kellam became the first Gator to do so since Canadian Olympian Steve Clarke seven years earlier.
LSU's top performer is backstroker Evan Martinec, school record-holder in the 100 with a 47.31 from last season's NCAAs.
The meet begins at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
– Bill Bell