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Monday, March 04, 2024

The UF men's swimming team went 3,000 miles to chase a dream.

That dream is the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships, which start Thursday.

The team finished the dual-meet season ranked sixth but hopes to finish better than that in Federal Way, Wash.

If you need proof that rankings aren't necessarily indicative of a team's quality, then look no further than the fact that UF takes 17 qualifiers to the NCAA season-ending meet, more than any other school there.

Auburn, the defending champion, is taking 15 swimmers, and the No. 1 ranked school, Texas, is bringing 16 swimmers.

It's safe to say the Gators will have their hands full with the competition, however. Auburn defeated UF at the Southeastern Conference Championships earlier in the season despite a comeback from the Gators.

Having more swimmers than any other school may serve as a minute advantage, but "not if they don't score," swimming coach Gregg Troy said.

"There's an advantage because you have some numbers and you got a more enthusiastic group, but if we don't stand up and score, then it's just having bodies in the stands," he said. "We need to have participants, not spectators."

Troy will look for extended participation from swimmers such as Shaune Fraser, Omar Pinzon and Clark Burckle.

The trio all contributed to at least one individual SEC Championships event. Fraser dominated in the 200-yard freestyle with an SEC record-setting time of 1:34.23.

Pinzon won the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:41.85.

Burckle touched the wall first in both the 400-yard individual medley and 200-yard breaststroke with times of 3:44.86 and 1:56.00, respectively.

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The men's cast doesn't end there, and the team will look for input from each of the 17 qualifiers.

Not only does Troy need every swimmer to play a pivotal role in the team's success, but he also may need one or two to emulate the success Caroline Burckle or Gemma Spofforth had a week earlier for the women's team.

"We have a couple guys who are capable of that (a record-breaking performance), but they haven't done it yet," Troy said. "And that's the type of performance we're going to need to be real successful."

Troy said the women's successes are a good indicator of where the men's team is and he has liked what he has seen in practice.

"We've been swimming relays well. We've got pretty good depth," Troy said. "Having 17 guys is an advantage if we can get all 17 to stand up and score. That's going to be key for us."

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