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Thursday, February 29, 2024

UF's last Southeastern Conference dual meet of the season ended the same way the previous one did.

The women came out on top, whereas the men fell by a very similar score. The women's swimming and diving team thwarted Tennessee 156-144, and the men's squad lost to the Volunteers 160-140.

The women won their tenth meet this season and improved to 4-1 in the SEC.

Despite not getting a first-place finish until the fourth event, the women were able to amass second and third place finishes through those same first four events.

Overall, the women's team placed first in only five of 14 swimming events.

Nevertheless, the team nabbed the win in Knoxville thanks to the influx of points from second and third-place finishes. The women placed second and third in eight of the 14 events.

"We didn't win a lot of events, but we did race extremely well," said UF swimming coach Gregg Troy.

The women's team finished strong, placing first and second in the last two events of the meet. Gemma Spofforth got first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:02.78. Natalie Pike placed second with a time of 2:03.04.

"It [the meet] all came down to the last two races, and obviously the team morale from everybody was amazing all the way through the meet," Spofforth said. "The team, I would say, definitely helped me do a really good IM at the end."

The 400-medley relay featuring Caroline Burckle, Colleen Healy, Elizabeth Kemp and Stephanie Napier won the last event of the meet, while another UF relay team featuring Pike came in second to help seal the win for the Gators.

In addition to the first-place finish in the 200 IM, Spofforth touched the wall first in the 100 back and 200 back to total three first-place finishes for 27 points.

"I hadn't swum too well in the fly in the (200 medley) relay, so I took a lot of my frustration out on the backstroke," Spofforth said.

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Samantha Vanderbilt played a strong supporting role, placing second in the 100 backstroke, fourth in the 100 fly and participating in two relays that got second.

"Samantha is one of the real bright spots on the team. In the past she's always been good but very inconsistent, and she's turned into a consistent, all-around athlete," Troy said.

The women's team was again helped out by the boards.

Jennifer Funch, Jeana Bartell and Monica Dodson totaled for 19 points after both diving events to neutralize Tennessee's 19 diving points.

A neutral diving score may have helped UF's men's team, which suffered its second straight loss at Tennessee.

"We didn't swim as well this week as we would've liked this week in the men," Troy said. "We just weren't as sharp this week as we need to be."

Men's divers Aaron Leech and Grayson Patton finished third and fifth, respectively, in both the one and three-meter diving events. Leech's performance was the best in the same meet for the season and Patton also scored his highest marks on the year.

Swimmers Tobias Work and Omar Pinzon combined for four of the men's six first-place finishes. Work finished first in the 1,000 free and 500 free, and Pinzon finished first in the 100 back and 200 back.

Another thorn in the men's attempt to beat Tennessee was the sprinting events. The best finish the men's team could muster in the 50-free or 100-free was Brett Jones' third.

"The main difference in the meet is we just lost too many close races," Troy said.

In the 100 breaststroke, the range of the top-four finishes was .33 seconds.

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