The Florida men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are now preparing for the intense training period that’ll lead up to some of the biggest races of their lives.

Participating in the NCAA Championships was the goal of every collegiate swimmer upon the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

For the Gators who were unable to qualify in certain events during the regular season, the Last Chance Meet — which took place this past weekend at the O’Connell Center — presented them with one more opportunity.

One of the men’s breakout performers this year, sophomore Khader Baqlah, swam in the 400-yard IM on Saturday and qualified with a B-cut time. He won the 200-yard freestyle event at the SEC Championships on Feb. 16 with a time of 1:31:96, which was good for an A-cut time.

Baqlah is no stranger in competing on a big stage.

In 2016 he qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He represented Jordan and swam in the 200-meter freestyle event, where he recorded a time of 1:48:42. In his first year with Florida, he qualified for the 2017 NCAA Championships in three events. His best finish came in the 200-yard freestyle, where he finished in 24th place with a time of 1:34:31. He improved that time by three seconds during this year’s SEC Championships, and is set to compete for the top spot at this year’s NCAA.

The women’s top performer at the Last Chance Meet was junior Georgia Marris. She qualified for B-cut times in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard freestyle. Marris is from Auckland, New Zealand, and also has international experience.

In 2017, she swam in the World University Games while representing her home country. Her best times this season both came in the SEC Championships, when she swam the 500-yard freestyle to a time of 4:48:88 and the 200-yard butterfly at 1:57:57.

Baqlah and Marris were two of 36 Gator swimmers who qualified for B-cut times this past weekend at the Last Chance Meet. In total, the 36 swimmers qualified for a total of 72 B-cut times throughout the span of the three-day meet.

Now, swimming and diving teams prepare for what they have been training for all season, a chance to be the best in the country at their event. It begins with diving on March 5 through 7 when the NCAA Diving Zones take place in Knoxville, Tennessee. The women’s swimming NCAA Championships will take place from March 14 to 17 in Columbus, Ohio. The men’s swimming NCAA Championships will run from March 21 to 24 in Minneapolis.

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