Meet of the Week: Georgia and Florida Split, 129-114 Women/122-121 Men; Burckle Posts A-Cut

By Jason Marsteller

GAINESVILLE, Florida, October 26. IN an amazing early-season match-up between two Southeastern Conference behemoths, Georgia and Florida forged a split in SwimmingWorldMagazine.com Meet of the Week action on Thursday. The No. 2 Florida women held off No. 5 Georgia, 129-114, while the No. 9 Georgia men scored a nail-biting upset over No. 3 Florida, 122-121 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium in Gainesville, Fla.

"It was two really tough meets and the kids did a real good job," Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. "For the men, the last relay was spectacular. I'm really proud of our guys. That's a tremendous win for them. Our women fought hard today and the meet was closer than the score indicates. We're just short of some bodies right now and we've got to get better. By and large, it was a good effort."

For the men, senior Cameron Hollinger paced Georgia with three event titles, while freshman Shaune Fraser, freshman Omar Pinzon, sophomore Justin Wilcox each scored a pair of titles for the Gators. On the women's side, junior Caroline Burckle and senior Candace Weiman led the Gators with three crowns each, while senior Kara Lynn Joyce snared three titles for the Bulldogs.

"We beat a real good Georgia team today. We jumped on them early and stayed on them," Florida head coach Gregg Troy said of his women's victory. "It's a big win for us, but it's just October, and that makes it an even bigger prediction that we are moving in the right direction."

Remarkably, Burckle punched her ticket to the NCAA Championships in early-season fashion with a 4:45.21 in the 500 free.

"Caroline has been training great. She's had probably the best six weeks of training out of the entire team," Troy said of Burckle's A-cut. "She was a little bit injured last season, and we didn't get to see what she was capable of after her great freshman year. Right now, we're seeing better things out of Caroline than in her freshman season, and that's a sign of great things to come."

In the women's one-meter competition, the Bulldogs took an early 12-7 lead when senior Emily Hunter posted a 241.50 to win the event. Florida went 2-3 as freshman Jennifer Funch (233.85) and sophomore Whitney Stern (231.38) rounded out the top three.

The Gators flipped the script in the men's one-meter event to take a 12-7 advantage. Wilcox scored a zone-qualifying score of 331.50 to win, while Georgia senior Genya Gouzeev placed second with a zone-qualifying score of 312.82. Georgia sophomore Webb Worthington also posted a zone score with a third-place 298.12.

The Florida women countered in the 400 medley relay with a 1-3 finish as the contingent of freshman Gemma Spofforth, Burckle, Weiman and freshman Elizabeth Kemp touched first in a B-cut time of 3:42.61. Georgia's team of sophomore Aleksandra Putra, freshman Kelly McNichols, freshman Lisa Caprioglio and sophomore Jessica Cole snared second in 3:44.85, while Florida's squad of junior Samantha Vanderbilt, junior Amanda Hartley, sophomore Jenny Lago and freshman Stephanie Napier placed third in 3:48.30. At the end of the race, Florida took a 20-16 lead. Notably, Putra (55.55) and Vanderbilt (55.21) put on a show during the lead leg as both recorded provisional times in the 100 back.

In the men's 400 medley relay, Florida pushed its lead to 25-11. The Gator team of Pinzon, senior Bill Mrazek, Fraser and junior Daniel Penniman came home first in 3:20.01. Meanwhile, Georgia's quartet of sophomore Chris Spooner, junior Neil Versfeld, sophomore Joe Redmon and senior Christopher Ward picked up second in 3:22.20. Florida's squad of freshman Skyler Stroman, senior Luca DeMatteis, junior J.B. Walsh and sophomore Brett Jones closed out the top three in 3:25.42.

The Gators dropped the hammer in the women's 1000 free to take a commanding 36-19 lead with a top-three sweep. Junior Katie Ball finished first in 9:49.75, while sophomore Stephanie Cota took second in 9:53.05 and junior Kim Larson placed third in 9:56.97.

In the men's distance free, the Bulldogs knocked a point off Florida's lead, 35-21. Georgia junior Sebastien Rouault (9:23.64) held off Florida junior Kevin Nead (9:24.57) to take the title, while Gator rookie Erich Matulic rounded out the top three in 9:31.46.

In an eye-popping women's 200 free, four swimmers cleared the B-cut threshold. Burckle won for the Gators in 1:47.64, while Georgia senior Claire Maust placed second in 1:48.76. Gator junior Natalie Pike took third in 1:49.41, while Georgia sophomore Austen Carter grabbed fourth in 1:50.23. At the end of the race, the Florida women held a 48-26 advantage.

In the men's 200 free, Florida extended its lead to 49-25. Fraser cruised to victory in 1:38.74, while his teammate and fellow freshman Roland Rudolf picked up second in 1:40.04. Georgia junior Nathan Bibliowicz rounded out the top three in 1:40.49.

Georgia chipped away at the Florida women's lead in the 50 free, 54-39. Bulldog nearly clocked an automatic time, but settled for a B-cut 22.99 to win the race. Meanwhile, Florida's Napier snared second in 23.56, while Georgia rookie Anne-Marie Botek pocketed third in 23.60.

On the men's side of the sprint free, Georgia made a gigantic move with a top-three sweep by a trio of seniors. Hollinger won in 20.55 just ahead of teammate Joe Smutz (20.58). Both barely touched out Michael Cellini's third-place 20.62. With the completion of the race, Florida held onto a 52-41 lead.

In another women's heat featuring multiple B cuts, Florida swept the top-three spots in the 200 IM. Weiman took control of the race with a first-place 2:02.77, while junior Leah Retrum finished second in 2:03.14. Senior Ashley Carusone wound up third in 2:03.78 as the top-three finishers each garnered provisional cuts. At the end of the race, Florida owned a 70-42 lead.

The Florida men pushed their lead back out to 20 points, 66-46, in the men's 200 IM. Gator sophomore Bradley Ally snared the title in a B-cut time of 1:49.17. Bulldog junior Gil Stovall finished second in 1:50.99, while Pinzon placed third in 1:52.15.

During the second diving break, the Georgia women shaved a bit of Florida's lead away to trail 77-54. Hunter captured her second title with a zone-qualifying 299.03 in the three-meter competition. Florida sophomore Jeana Bartell finished second by narrowly eclipsing the zone-standard with a 270.01. Georgia sophomore Natalie Thomas made it 1-3 for the Bulldogs with a third-place 260.56.

On the men's side of the middle board, Florida stretched its lead to 79-52 when Wilcox pulled a double of his own. He tallied a huge zone-qualifying total of 350.70 for the win, while Georgia's Gouzeev finished second with a zone-qualifying 322.43. Florida sophomore Aaron Leech completed the top three with a 304.13.

In another provisional-qualifying top-three sweep, the Florida women started to guarantee victory in the 200 fly, 93-57. Weiman dominated the field with a 2:00.78, while Carusone placed second in 2:02.01. Cota concluded the Florida with a 2:02.32.

In the men's 200 fly, Georgia kept within striking distance, 85-65, with a top-two performance. Stovall posted a sterling 1:47.81 to win and provisionally qualify for NCAAs, while Rouault finished second in 1:49.06. Florida's Ally placed third in 1:49.52 to round out the top three.

The Georgia women responded in the 100 free as Joyce swept the sprint freestyle events with a B-cut time of 50.25. Meanwhile, Cole took second for the Bulldogs in 51.02. Pike wound up third in 51.14 for Florida. At the completion of the event, Florida owned a 98-71 advantage.

In the men's 100 free, Georgia took another chuck out of the Florida lead, 90-79. Hollinger (45.34) held off Fraser (45.43) for a huge 10-point swing. Meanwhile, Smutz picked up third in 35.80.

In another ridiculously fast early-season heat, four swimmers cleared the B-cut standard in the women's 200 back. Putra, already a provisional qualifier in the 100 back, won the event for Georgia in 1:58.07. Meanwhile, Florida registered the next three times as Retrum (1:58.48), sophomore Kelsy Smith (2:00.03) and Spofforth (2:00.34) each posted provisional times. With the completion of the race, Florida led 107-81.

In the men's 200 back, Florida gained a point to lead 100-88. Pinzon far surpassed the rest of the swimmers with a B-cut time of 1:47.01 in a Gator win. Meanwhile, Georgia senior Will Thorburn touched second in 1:51.97, while his teammate, freshman Hunter Lainhart, placed third in 1:52.07.

The women's 500 free witnessed the only automatic qualifying time of the day as Burckle blazed to a 4:45.21 to triumph in the event for the Gators. Three other swimmers recorded B-cuts as Maust took second for Georgia in 4:48.32, Ball placed third for the Gators in 4:51.44 and Georgia junior Anna Miller grabbed fourth in 4:53.25. Florida remained in the lead, 120-87, after the amazingly fast heat.

Georgia continued to chip away on Florida's lead in the men's meet, 108-99, in the 500 free. Rouault stormed past the rest of the field in 4:31.22 for the victory, while Gator junior Dustin McLarty finished second in 4:34.37. Nead rounded out the top three for Florida in 4:37.89.

The Bulldogs made the score a bit more respectable in the 200 breast with a top-three sweep. McNichols won the crown in 2:17.82, while sophomore Mhyria Miller took second in 2:18.78 and senior Melissa Klein finished third in 2:20.01. With that effort, Georgia closed the gap to 123-103.

The Georgia men picked off another point in Florida's advantage, 117-109, in the 200 breast when Versfeld put together a B-cut time of 2:00.13 to win the race. Meanwhile, Florida freshman Clark Burckle placed second in 2:02.66 and teammate DeMatteis took third in 2:05.64.

Georgia closed out the women's meet with an impressive B-cut time of 3:23.94 by Cole, Carter, Miller and Joyce in the 400 freestyle relay. Meanwhile, Florida's team of Pike, Napier, sophomore Lauren Winter and Retrum finished second in 3:27.46. The Gator quartet of freshman Jenne Ballatore, freshman Sarah Peterson, senior Kristin Gilliam and Smith took third in 3:30.92. Both Cole (50.93) and Pike (50.88) cleared the provisional threshold in the 100 free during their lead legs. In the end, Florida closed out the conquest, 129-114.

In the most thrilling race of the night where both first and third place truly mattered, Georgia pulled off an astonishing come-from-behind victory with a 1-3 effort in the 400 free relay. First, Stovall, Hollinger, Smutz and Bibliowicz dropped the hammer to win the event in 3:00.70. That time came well ahead of Penniman, Ally, sophomore Ron Ballatore and Rudolf's second-place time of 3:02.07.

Then, in the battle for the final two points of utmost importance, the Bulldog contingent of sophomore Joe Redmon, senior Andrew Taylor, freshman Craig Jennings and Ward garnered third place by .16 seconds with a time of 3:06.13. The Florida team of junior Grant Johnson, senior Matt Coan, Jones and McLarty could not close the deal for the Gators with a fourth-place time of 3:06.29. In the end, Georgia upended Florida by the slimmest of margins, 122-121.

Meet of the Week: Georgia at Florida

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