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Friday, March 01, 2024

On a day when the seniors were the focal point of the meet, the lone senior diver might have made the loudest splash.

Sarah Ellerby turned heads in the last dual meet of her collegiate career by finishing first on the one-meter board, giving UF the lead out of the gates.

It wasn't her diving that nabbed attention, but rather her appearance in the 400-yard medley relay. Ellerby, filling in for Amanda Hartley, swam the third leg in the senior-filled race.

Though the relay team finished fifth, teammates and fans alike cheered the senior on, capturing the emotion of Senior Day.

"(Hartley) was sick, so they asked me if I would do it and I was like, 'Sure,'" Ellerby said. "It was fun. I had a good time doing it. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be."

The rest of the seniors put in their share as well, contributing to wins on both the men's and women's sides. The men defeated Florida Atlantic 172-112 and the women won 169-124.

Both teams started strong. Following one-meter diving wins from both Ellerby and Aaron Leech, both squads placed first and second in the 200 medley relay. Leech also finished on top in the three-meter diving event.

The rest of the meet took that same pattern, with both the men and women dominating FAU. The men placed first in 11 of their 16 events and the women's team got 11 first-place finishes.

It was also fitting that a good number of the wins for both teams came from the seniors, who were honored prior to the meet. Seniors delivered 11 first-place finishes, including one in the women's 200 medley relay.

"There's so many of us, so many seniors, so it was really cool to wrap it up with a win," said senior Caroline Burckle. "We were more focused on just being a team today."

"Outstanding people," said swimming coach Gregg Troy about his seniors.

"The women's class of leadership has been fantastic," Troy said. "They've been good for four years. It's a real quality group.

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"The men's class has kind of set the tone for the future. I think we're graduating eight guys, and of the eight, six are All-Americans, so it's a pretty good group of guys," Troy said.

The finality of the win may or may not have sunk in completely.

"One person just said, 'You know, this is the last competition in this pool,' and that's when we all kind of looked at each other kind of shocked and awed," Senior Olympian J.B. Walsh said.

"It started to hit you here and there during the meet," Walsh said.

Samantha Vanderbilt, who placed first in the 200 backstroke and was part of the senior relay that finished first in the 400 relay, felt similarly. "I was shocked, honestly," Vanderbilt said. "I never thought this day would come, but it was a great day. It was a great way to end it. It couldn't have been better."

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