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Sunday, March 03, 2024

UF diver Whitney Stern wanted victory for herself and for the team at her last home meet.

She got exactly what she hoped for and more.

The Gators swimming and diving teams secured three victories this weekend against high-ranked Tennessee on Friday and Florida Gulf Coast and Indian River State College on Saturday at the O'Connell Center.

After falling to Auburn last week, the No. 8 UF men (7-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) rebounded and snatched victory from the No.10 Volunteers. It was a fierce face-off, with each team capturing eight of the 16 events.

"We weren't completely rested against Auburn, but today we came in giving it our all," freshman Anthony Lewark said. "It's good for us to lose sometimes. That's what motivates us to come back and do what we can do."

Lewark knew what he was capable of doing. He placed first and second in the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions, respectively, beating his NCAA Zone B Diving Championship qualification marks.

The No. 5 Gators women (8-1, 4-1 SEC) followed the men's steps and dominated the No. 7 Volunteers by 49 points. Junior Sarah Peterson and freshman Jemma Lowe automatically qualified for the NCAA Championship in the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard butterfly, respectively.

"I'm just really relieved for now," Peterson said. "There is still the SEC to worry about. It gets down to hundredths of seconds at this point (in the season.)"

On Saturday, the UF men rolled over IRSC by 45 points, and the women handled Florida Gulf Coast and IRSC by more than 50 points each. The Gators snatched all 26 events in the dual meet.

Prior to the showdown, 13 seniors were honored with flowers, commemorative plaques and a supportive cheering audience for their contributions to the UF team. Bradley Ally, Cody Kauffman, Aaron Leech, Eric Shrestha, Jos Smith, Scott Thompson, Rex Tullius, Jeana Bartell, Laurabeth Guenthner, Kelsy Smith, Rachel Sowers, Stern and Lindsay Woodward were recognized before they took their final dive or swim in the O'Dome pool.

"Today was everything I expected," Stern said with a smile as she dried off Saturday. "I just took a deep breath, relaxed and did what I did every time."

Stern placed second in the 1-meter and 3-meter boards, achieving personal bests.

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Coach Gregg Troy plans on changing the team's training schedule to prepare for the SEC Championships on Feb. 18.

"This weekend was outstanding." Troy said. "It gave us a clear picture on who we want to take to the conference and what we need to do to get ready."

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