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Monday, May 20, 2024

In a sport where individual performances are usually key, the Gators have what senior Bradley Ally calls "united energy," a force that helps bind the Gators together and deliver some truly outstanding performances.

The energy that Ally speaks of was clearly there at the end of Wednesday's meet against Virginia. The last event was the men's 400-yard freestyle relay. The event started off like any other, until the UF and Virginia A-teams began to separate from the rest of the pack in the last four laps. In a meet UF had already secured, the united energy came surging through. With the crowd roaring in the background, the Gators finished .23 seconds ahead of the Cavaliers.

Races like that can define a meet and perhaps define a season.

"When you win like that, it's hard for other teams to come back," senior Rex Tullius said.

And wins like that haven't always been there for UF. Senior Laurabeth Guenthner has been having one of the best seasons of her career and can remember times when close races often did not fall in UF's favor.

"I'm not in very many relays," Guenthner said. "(But this) is really exciting."

As the Gators move forward, they set their sights on bigger and better things. At the end of the meet, Virginia wished the UF team good luck at SECs. One can't help but notice how excited this team is for what lies ahead.

The scores, of 169 to 129 in favor of the UF men's team and 166 to 132 in favor of the women, won't satisfy the thirst the Gators have for achievement. When it comes down to it, all the meet really is is practice for what matters down the line: Southeastern Conference and NCAA finals.

"I just see (the dual meets) as training opportunities," Tullius remarked. "I don't think there's a team out there that trains harder than we do."

And so, with more than half the year behind them, the Gators remain focused. At No. 7 and No. 6, the men's and women's teams have high expectations for themselves.

After all the training they've put in - including three weeks of two-a-days during December - the Gators are feeling confident they can do something special.

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