Kieran Smith, Bobby Finke Stun With Stellar Closing Speed to Run Down NCAA Titles

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Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Closing speed is something every swimmer strives to have, but few are able to put that desire to use — especially on the national stage. But a pair of Florida Gators executed that closing speed in spectacular fashion to earn NCAA titles.

Bobby Finke won the 400 IM and Kieran Smith followed suit in the 200 free — both in comeback fashion. It was part of a stellar day for the Florida Gators, who sit in third place heading into the final day of the meet.

Finke, a junior, won the 400 IM in 3:36.90, breaking the pool record in the event. But it wasn’t that he won, it was how he won. Finke trailed Texas freshman Carson Foster, well behind in fact, for the first 300.

Foster turned at 2:46.12 ahead of Finke at 2:47.46. Finke has proved to be one of the top closers in the country, as this followed a similar pattern seen in the 400 IM at the 2019 summer nationals when Finke ran down Foster a year and a half ago.

Finke threw down a 49.4 on the freestyle leg on Friday night compared to Foster’s 52.1. Foster went faster this morning and also in October when he went 3:35.

Finke is now 12th all-time with his swim that sparked the Florida Gators.

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Bobby Finke. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

“I really just have to shout out to all the staff and trainers at home. The last month has been a whirlwind,” Bobby Finke said after the race. “I was just trying to stay calm throughout the fly and try to stay underwater on the breaststroke.”

Finke’s performance inspired Smith to continue the trend when his turn came up in the 200 free. Smith won in 1:30.10, but again, it wasn’t that he won, it was how he won.

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Kieran Smith. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Texas’ Drew Kibler took the early lead with a first-half split of 43.29. Smith was a 43.79 on the front half and stayed close throughout, closing the gap with a methodic finish and burst of speed in the final 25.

Smith split a 23.16 for the final 50, just a few tenths quicker than his Florida Gators teammate Bobby Finke earlier in the 400 IM, who was a 23.83. It was the first individual title of his career after coming in last year as the top man in the 200 and 500 free before the meet was cancelled. Smith will be in the 100 freestyle tomorrow.

“This was really emotional. I was devastated when the meet got canceled last year because I felt like I had a couple of good shots at winning a title. I fell a little short in the 500 yesterday, so I am beyond happy to get my hand on the wall first tonight,” Kieran Smith said after the race. “I was watching Bobby’s race and I couldn’t believe my eyes. That got me going tonight.”

The late burst of speed by the NCAA champion duo got the rest of the Gators going, too. Dillon Hillis finished runner-up in the 100 breaststroke and the Gators were second in the 200 medley relay

With that kind of closing speed becoming a pattern, the Florida Gators will continue to build one of the nation’s elite programs as they sit third with one day to go.

As for Smith and Finke, that kind of closing ability might end up being the difference in their quest to make the U.S. Olympic team.