GAINESVILLE, Florida, November 1. THIS weekend’s football matchup between Florida and Georgia will not likely hold up against the electric contest in the pool that took place this afternoon at the O’Connell Natatorium. With NCAA champions and Olympians racing for both schools, this was undoubtedly the top meet of the weekend, and the results showed that.
The Georgia women beat Florida 162-138 with just six wins in 16 events, displaying the depth of the Bulldog program. On the men’s side, the Gators led from the start and won the meet with a score of 168-113, highlighted by nine wins in 16 races.
Two close 200 medley relay races took place to start the meet, with Georgia’s sprint freestyle weakness evident in both the men’s and women’s events. Though Georgia won the women’s event over Florida, 1:39.80 to 1:40.15, Gator Natalie Hinds almost ran down Georgia on the freestyle leg.
After an early lead by Florida, Georgia gained the lead in the men’s medley relay on the breaststroke thanks to world championship team member Nic Fink. But a stronger freestyle leg from Florida’s Brad Deborde helped them win the men’s relay with a 1:28.65 over Georgia’s 1:29.03. Florida’s B team wasn’t far behind with a 1:30.31 for third.
Continuing a fall season of great distance freestyle racing that had her briefly at the top of the collegiate rankings in the 500 and 1000 freestyles, Elizabeth Beisel had a solid winning time of 9:38.49 that returns her to the top of the collegiate standings ahead of Stephanie Peacock’s 9:42.95. Peacock will be racing this event tomorrow against Louisville, and could likely respond in kind to Beisel’s swim. Beisel turned at 4:48.30 at the 500-yard mark, which would have been a top 10 nationally-ranked swim in that event, showing off the great distance work she’s putting into her senior year. Georgia went 2-3 in the race, as Amber McDermott was second with a 9:44.40 and Rachel Zalinskas touched third with a 9:48.11. These were also season-bests for the two Bulldogs, as McDermott’s former best was 9:47.78 and Zalinskas had swum a 9:52.29 earlier in the season.
Taking the lead from Andrew Gemmell around the halfway mark, Florida’s Arthur Frayler sailed to a comfortable win with a season-best 9:04.53 to drop seven seconds off his previous best time this fall and rank second in the nation behind Connor Jaeger’s 9:02.50. Mitch D’Arrigo gave Florida a 1-2 finish with a 9:07.43 to also overtake Gemmell near the end of the race. That’s a one-second improvement for D’Arrigo for fourth in the national standings. Gemmell faded to third with a 9:10.74, and the Olympian can take comfort in knowing it’s a four-second drop on his best this season.
Georgia responded to the Gators taking both 1000 free events with a 1-2 sweep of the women’s 200 free. Melanie Margalis won with a 1:47.09, improving on her season best by just five tenths. Brittany MacLean made a bigger drop in time in placing second with a 1:47.76, beating her previous time of 1:49.80.
Matias Koski let Florida’s Sebastien Rousseau and Dan Wallace take the early lead in the men’s 200 free, biding his time until the final 50 to overtake them both and win with a 1:36.16. An NCAA finalist in the 500 and 1650 freestyles for Georgia, Koski improved his season best by two seconds to vault from 12th to second in the national college rankings, between Clay Youngquist’s 1:35.71 and Michael Wynalda’s 1:36.31. Rousseau’s runner-up time of 1:36.53 moves him up to fourth nationally. Wallace faded in the final 50 yards to put himself out of contention, but he held on for the crucial third-place points with a time of 1:38.99.
Florida came back to win the men’s and women’s 100 backstrokes. Sinead Russell got to the wall ahead of national high school record holder (and reigning Swimming World Magazine Female High School Swimmer of the Year) Olivia Smoliga of Georgia with a 53.49 to Smoliga’s 55.49. Russell cut nearly a full second off her season best to move up to fifth nationally. In the men’s event, Christian Homer notched his first collegiate win of the season, taking the race with a 48.42, his first time under 49 seconds this season. Corey Main gave the Gators a much-needed second-place finish with a 48.51, though almost a second off his best of the season. Tynan Stewart of Georgia was shut out of second place by a slim margin with a time of 48.52.
After Georgia’s Annie Zhu handled duties in winning the 100 breast with a 1:02.29 over Florida’s Hilda Luthersdottir (1:03.20), Eduardo Solache-Gomez gave the Gators a surprising win in the men’s 100 breast with a 54.28 over teammate Matt Elliott, who posted a 54.80 for second ahead of Fink’s 54.87.
Hali Flickinger looked like she would take the women’s 200 fly and give Georgia the important winning points, but Beisel began to accelerate after 125 yards and cut down the gap at 175 yards. A strong final turn gave Beisel the lead and the overall win with a 1:56.80 that puts her third in the country, though still a considerable ways behind Tanja Kylliainen’s 1:54.99.
With a couple of racing options available for Chase Kalisz on the third day of the NCAA championships, we’ll have to wait to see if he decides to race the 200 fly or 200 breast in the championship season. His 200 fly is a strong race, beating Florida’s Marcin Cieslak 1:43.55 to 1:43.80. Both swimmers beat the nation’s top time, a 1:44.17 by Michigan’s Dylan Bosch to give the Southeastern Conference the top two swimmers in the event. Kalisz swam the 200 breast at last season’s NCAAs, while Cieslak was second in the 200 fly last March.
Hinds gave Florida the big points in the women’s 50 freestyle, posting a time of 23.01 that falls short of her best of the season, a 22.82 from the dual meet with Cal a couple of weeks ago. Georgia was second and third with Jessica Graber posting a 23.23 and Maddie Locus third with a 23.46.
With more than a half of a body length from the start, Brad Deborde won the men’s 50 free for Florida with a 20.12, his best of the season. Michael Trice broke up the Florida scoring with a second-place time of 20.72 ahead of Matt Curby’s 21.15.
Hinds made it a double win today with a 49.47 in the 100 free over Smoliga’s 49.77. Deborde also notched his second win with a 44.61 victory. The second- and third-place finishers in the men’s 50 free, Trice and Curby, reversed their placings in the longer sprint, with Curby second with a 45.72 over Trice’s 45.90.
Russell, a Canadian Olympian who made the final of the 200 back in the London Olympics, made it a backstroke double today with a 1:55.58 that marks a four-second drop on her best time of the season and puts her third in the nation behind Elizabeth Pelton (1:53.94) and Brooklynn Snodgrass (1:54.08). Margalis was second with a 1:56.35, not too far off her 1:56.05 that is now fourth in the nation.
Main got his individual-event win today with a 1:45.67 in the men’s 200 back in a close battle with Stewart. The win not only helped secure the Gators’ hold on the lead, but jumped Main up to fourth in the country, just ahead of teammate Carlos Omana, who did not race the 200 back today. Stewart’s runner-up time of 1:45.95 is one tenth slower than he swam two weeks ago at LSU.
Zhu had not trouble in sweeping the breaststrokes, taking the 200 breast in 2:14.40 ahead of Luthersdottir’s 2:15.60.
In what is a first for the collegiate season so far, four swimmers got under two minutes in one race in the men’s 200 breast. Kalisz led the way with a 1:57.20 to improve on his season best of 1:57.97 that also led in the collegiate standings. Elliott had a strong final 50 yards to close the gap on Kalisz, posting a 1:57.61 to mark his first time under 1:58 this season and move him from third to second nationally. After winning the 100 breast, Solache-Gomez placed third in the longer event with a 1:58.70, his first time under 1:59 this season. Fink was fourth with a 1:58.73, also his first swim under 1:59 this season.
Beisel continued her distance free dominance today, holding off Amber McDermott to give Florida a much-needed win with a 4:43.32 over McDermott’s 4:43.57. It’s a season-best for both of them, but not fast enough to move Beisel up to the top of the collegiate standings, which is being held by Lindsay Vrooman with a 4:38.11.
In a similar race strategy to his win in the 200 free, Koski got the win over Florida’s Mitch D’Arrigo in the 500 free with a 4:22.50 to D’Arrigo’s 4:24.78. Koski was just shy of toppling Connor Jaeger’s nation-leading time of 4:22.13, while D’Arrigo moved up from sixth to fifth with his swim to continue not only a great freshman season but a great debut in short course yards racing.
Not merely content with a sprint freestyle double, Hinds was able to win the 100 fly with a 54.66 to beat out more established butterflyers to put Florida within (point range) of Georgia in the women’s meet.
The only 1-2-3 sweep of the meet took place in the men’s 100 fly as Cieslak (47.68), Homer (47.90) and Rousseau (48.65) helped Florida extend its massive lead in the men’s meet. For Cieslak, it was three tenths slower than his fastest time of the season that he swam about a month ago at the All-Florida Invite and marks his third time under 48 seconds this season. It was a major time drop for Homer, down from 49.04 that was 28th in the nation. He’s now in the top 10 with today’s swim.
Elizabeth Pelton’s top time of 1:57.48 was nearly trounced by Margalis in her second win of the day. The Georgia senior posted a sizzling 1:57.88, using a strong back half to beat Russell, who was second with a 2:00.64.
Kalisz had an impressive third win of the day, going in the men’s 200 IM against Cieslak, who had the top time in the country with a 1:46.00. That time was beaten by Kalisz with a winning time of 1:45.23 over Cieslak’s 1:45.83 as the only swims under 1:46 so far this season and set up a potential grudge match at February’s conference championships. Cieslak’s front-end speed was not enough to take over Kalisz’s immense strength in the breaststroke, while both seemed to be equal in the freestyle. Solache-Gomez wrapped up a strong meet with a third-place time of 1:47.51 that puts him in the top five nationally.
Georgia sealed their win in the women’s meet with a convincing victory in the 400 free relay with a time of 3:22.17 over Florida’s 3:25.13. Florida’s men’s team attempted to topple Michigan’s top time of 2:56.09 in the 400 free relay, but fell short with a 2:57.74 that was just a half-second slower than their best time of 2:57.29. It was the only swim under three minutes, with Georgia placing second with a 3:03.26 (featuring a very tired Kalisz in the anchor leg).
With four swims that now lead the nation and a host of others that rank in the top five, both Georgia and Florida gave notice to other teams racing this weekend, with many of the swims not likely to be challenged elsewhere in the country.