Gainesville, Florida, January 12. THE 11th-ranked University of Florida men's swimming and diving team and the ninth-ranked defeated Virginia on Friday night at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
In addition to their 11 event wins, the Gators posted 10 NCAA qualifying times on the evening, including three from sophomore Lucas Salatta (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Junior Tobias Work (Falmouth, Mass.) also had a big night for Florida, capturing an NCAA automatic qualifying mark in the 1,650 free with a time of 15:03.68, in addition to notching an NCAA B cut in the 500 free (4:24.72). Junior Daniel Penniman (Pensacola, Fla.) was a multiple-event winner, taking the 50 free (20.82) and the 100 free (45.73) against UVa.
"Our men are starting to fire on all cylinders," Florida head coach Gregg Troy said. "We've got some really talented guys who are starting to believe in themselves. The meets are starting to count now, and our guys stood up well."
Salatta was the most dominant of the Florida men on Friday night, turning an individual win to go along with his three NCAA provisional standards. He took first in the 200 free with an NCAA B time of 1:36.91, while his times in the 100 fly (48.25) and 400 individual medley (3:52.60) both met the NCAA provisional standard and would have been victories had he not been swimming exhibition.
The quartet of Salatta, sophomore Bradley Ally (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), freshman Shaune Fraser (George Town, Cayman Islands) and Penniman picked up an early win in the 200 MR for UF with a time of 1:30.46, before Work stepped in to claim the 1,650 free and punch his ticket to the national meet. Freshman Roland Rudolf (Budapest, Hungary) continued his strong rookie season against Virginia, earning NCAA provisional qualifying standards in the 200 back (1:45.75) and the 1,650 free (15:25.60). Ally and Fraser chipped in with wins and NCAA B cuts in the 200 breast (1:59.72) and the 200 fly (1:45.72), respectively. Sophomore Jonathan Wilcox (Bellevue, Wash.) also got in on the Gators' winning ways with a first-place finish on the 1M board (343.20) to open the meet.
"We're in a situation that we haven't really been in before because we already have several guys that have qualified for the NCAA meet," Troy said. "It's a good group of guys that compete hard, and we'll just have to figure out how to use them all at the conference meet."
In women's swimming and diving action, the ninth-ranked University of Florida women's swimming and diving squad (5-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) opened the spring portion of its 2006-07 schedule with a 159-122 victory over No. 20 Virginia (3-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) Friday evening in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium. With the win, the Gator women improved their all-time series record to 5-0 against the Cavaliers.
"We raced really well, but that's not to say that we still don't have some work to do before the conference meet. After tonight's meet, I can say that I'm pretty happy with where we're at for this point in the season," Troy said.
Florida claimed each of the top three spots in the sprint freestyle and 200 fly competitions. Junior Natalie Pike (Boca Raton, Fla.) led the way for the Gators with a pair of wins and NCAA provisional times in the 100 and 200 free after touching the wall in 50.77 and 1:48.14, respectively.
"Natalie had a very good December, as far as training is concerned. She has developed some confidence in herself, and that is beginning to show in each of her events. She's becoming a big-time contender for Florida," Troy added.
Freshman Elizabeth Kemp (Potomac, Md.) and sophomore Lauren Winter (Dalkeith, Australia) finished second and third in the 100 free, with Kemp clocking a ‘B'-cut time of 50.84 and Winter finishing in 51.57. In 200 free action, senior Kristin Gilliam (Gainesville, Fla.) claimed second place with a time of 1:50.84, and freshman Jenne Ballatore (Gainesville, Fla.) completed the sweep with a third-place showing (1:51.88).
Freshman Stephanie Napier (Chattanooga, Tenn.) was the top finisher in the 50 free, where she recorded a provisional-qualifying time of 23.29. She was followed by Kemp and junior Samantha Vanderbilt (Nashville, Tenn.) in second and third with times of 23.50 and 23.93, respectively.
Senior Ashley Carusone (High Springs, Fla.) led off a trio of Florida swimmers that finished 1-2-3 in the 200 fly with a ‘B' time of 2:00.47, and redshirt junior Leah Retrum (Columbus, Ind.) added a provisional time of her own after finishing second in 2:01.41. Sophomore Stephanie Cota (Granite Bay, Calif.) notched a third-place finish in the event with a time of 2:04.16.
Sophomore Laurabeth Guenthner (Wellington, Fla.) jumpstarted the Gator domination as she clocked a 1,650 free ‘B' time of 16:27.65 in the first individual swimming competition of the evening, and junior Kim Larson (Longwood, Fla.) followed with a provisional time of 16:36.81 for second place.
The Gators also controlled the top spot in the 100 and 200 backstroke events as freshman Gemma Spofforth (West Sussex, England) notched provisional times in each. Her first-place time of 55.25 in the 100 back marked a season best, and she was just one hundredth of a second off her season best time of 2:00.34 in her 200 back victory.
Also claiming one of Florida's 12 ‘B' cut times in the ACC-SEC showdown was junior Caroline Burckle (Louisville, Ky.), who led Florida in the 100 breast with a time of 1:03.04.
The quartet of Pike, Winter, Burckle and Kemp added the final NCAA ‘B' time of the evening with a time of 3:23.36 in the 400 free relay. Earlier in the evening, Vanderbilt, Burckle, Winter and Napier claimed the first swimming win of the night as they opened the meet with a time of 1:42.85 in the 200 medley relay.
In diving action, sophomore Whitney Stern (Safety Harbor, Fla.) and freshman Jennifer Funch (Cincinatti, Ohio) finished 1-2 on the 3-meter board with scores of 247.80 and 240.68, respectively.
Florida will return to action Saturday afternoon as it serves host to instate Indian River Community College. Diving events will begin at 1:30 p.m., and swimming will get underway at 3 p.m. Admission to the meet is free.