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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

When UF swimming coach Gregg Troy hears "Auburn," he thinks national champions.

That thought will be on his mind when the UF swimming and diving team hosts rival and reigning national champion Auburn on Saturday.

"They bring out the best in us," Troy said. "It's a friendly rivalry, but heated."

The men's team is ranked No. 5 after defeating No. 21 LSU 132-109 Jan. 12, and No. 8 Auburn topped Texas A&M that same day.

More is at stake than rankings, though, as UF (8-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference in dual meets) looks to stay undefeated in the conference.

"I've been in the SEC for a long time, and Auburn's always been one that we want to beat in a dual meet," UF diving coach Donnie Craine said.

The Gators will have their hands full with the Tigers' diving team alone.

"On the men's side, they've probably got one of the best diving teams in the country and we're a little weak this year," Craine said. "I still think we can be competitive, even though we may not be as strong as they are or as deep."

The UF men's diving team, made up of Aaron Leech and Grayson Patton, is an underdog to Auburn's four-man diving rotation of Caleb Dunnichay, Kelly Marx, Dan Mazzaferro and Scott Morgan. Still, Craine wants his divers to step up and compete with what he believes is the best of the best.

The No. 7 women's team sports a different makeup from the men's.

Diving is the team's strength, and the women will need their best performance to combat the No. 2 Tigers.

"This time, [the diving] will be a plus," Craine said.

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The women's diving team is much deeper than its male counterpart. Craine has five divers available: Whitney Stern, Sarah Ellerby, Jennifer Funch, Monica Dodson and Jeana Bartell.

"(Auburn) should be a little bit more overwhelming on the men's side, and we should be overwhelming on the women's side so it'll be fun there," Craine said.

Craine also said he'd use the Auburn meet to evaluate his team and decide who he'd be taking to the SEC Championships starting Feb. 15.

In order to beat the Tigers, Troy said there would have to be a strong showing across the board.

"We can't have any weak links," Troy said. "We've got to be consistent and win the close races."

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