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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Through the wins and losses, the Gators have remained collected going into the depths of the Southeastern Conference season. When asked whether he would be upset if the Gators lost every meet of the season but still swam their best and improved, senior Rex Tullius answered quickly and without hesitation.

"It wouldn't matter," he said.

And that's a theme the Gators have established for themselves.

Don't be happy with wins. Be happy with improvement.

The UF men's and women's swim teams will take this mantra into today's dual meet against SEC rival Georgia at 2 p.m. in the O'Connell Center, the Gators' first home meet of the season.

The men (1-1, 1-0 SEC) come off their first victory of the season against LSU in Baton Rouge. The No. 4 Gators will have more of a challenge this week facing off against the No. 9 Bulldogs team as LSU was only No. 17 when they met last week.

The men have more than just a win last week to give them something to rally around. Junior Omar Pinzon also earned the SEC Male Swimmer of the Week award.

The women have discovered that they don't have to look solely to their experienced swimmers for clutch performances, but they can also look to promising new freshmen, such as Shara Stafford, Lindsay Rogers and this past week's SEC Female Freshman of the Week, Teresa Crippen, to give them strong swims.

When the UF women met Georgia last season, the No. 5 Bulldogs came away with a victory over the then-No. 7 Gators. This year, UF will face a similar test as Georgia comes into the meet the No. 2 team in the nation.

The Gators have been swimming better than some may have thought this season. After answering doubts about whether the team, composed largely of freshmen, could swim against big-time programs with a win against No. 14 Michigan and a close loss to No. 3 Stanford, the Gators came back to sweep unranked LSU in their meet last week.

"We have to remember that (Georgia) is better," Crippen said. "But if we put our heads down and race, we can still win."

The matchup in the pool between UF and Georgia, much like the game between the two schools' football teams, carries much weight.

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The dual meet marks the 74th time the Gators and Bulldogs men have met and the 23rd time the women have faced each other.

When asked what the meet means for the team and for swimmers like her, Crippen seemed to realize the magnitude of the rivalry.

"This is why I came to (UF), to experience something like Florida-Georgia," she said.

Assistant coach Martyn Wilby even joked for a minute about which game would be more important to UF fans, ultimately boiling it down with a laugh to a simple comparison:

"It's part of the Florida-Georgia weekend," he said. "In the swimming equivalent … this is it. This is a good college dual meet."

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