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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

For a girl who never really knew if swimming was for her, senior Laurabeth Guenthner has left her mark on the UF swimming and diving team.

However, she found that the sport sucked her in after she committed to a year-round team at age 9.

She swam on her team at Wellington High, was named Most Valuable Player from 2002-04 and was a state finalist in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles those years. This was just the beginning of her career. She continued to shine after entering what she considers an amazing experience at UF.

"To be on the team is a major accomplishment," Guenthner said. "Nothing really beats swimming for the Gators."

Guenthner became part of the UF women's swimming team as a freshman walk-on. In her first year she was one of three freshmen to qualify for and compete at the 2006 NCAA Championships.

"I've improved dramatically, and I've had goals for winning an SEC and NCAA title," Guenthner said.

She met her goals again as she helped her team win the women's title last week at the Southeastern Conference Championship in Auburn, Ala. She set personal records in all her events, including the 1650-yard free, 500-yard free and 400-yard individual medley. She snatched fourth place in the 500 free, 10th in the 400 IM and second in the 1650 free.

"It was the most exciting experience, and I'm so proud of our team this year." Guenthner said. "This was the highest I've ever placed at the SECs, so I was really happy with my swims."

Guenthner still has an opportunity to further her impact at UF. She will participate in the NCAAs in a month and hopes that she and her team can accomplish whatever they desire.

Guenthner will graduate in December and hopes to attend nursing school next spring.

"I'll miss the sport of swimming for sure, but most of all I'll miss my teammates and being around them every single day." Guenthner said.

This swimming all-star has even competed at the national level, placing 10th in the 800-meter free and 1,500-meter free at the 2007 ConocoPhillips U.S Nationals Meet. After the 2007-08 season she snatched her first All-American honor by finishing sixth in the 1650 free at the NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

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Guenthner hopes to inspire young athletes with this simple message.

"Dream big and believe in yourself," she said. "You can only be as good as you think you are."

Her four years have treated her well.

"Honestly, my experience at Florida has been a dream come true."

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