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Friday, January 27, 2023

Column: Never heard of Caeleb Dressel? You will

<p>Florida's Caeleb Dressel reacts after winning the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. The initials on his face are in honor of a former teacher. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)</p>

Florida's Caeleb Dressel reacts after winning the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. The initials on his face are in honor of a former teacher. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

You may not know the name Caeleb Dressel.

Here is your introduction.

Among those who know him well, there is an understanding about the swimmer.

He has a feel for the water. He was built to swim. He was made to break records.

"He’s got that little knack," Florida swimming coach Gregg Troy said.

In the water, he’s a natural. He is the star-studded sophomore single handedly soaring the Florida swimming program to prominence at this year’s Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championships.

He swam the 50-yard freestyle faster than any human has ever swam it, touching the wall in 18.23 seconds at the SECs on Feb. 17.

"Did you expect to swim that fast?" Dressel was asked, immediately after breaking the UF, NCAA and American record in the 50-yard free in less time than it takes most people to boot up their computer.

"I’ve been working pretty hard this season," the sophomore answered through a smile.

"And I thought I had a little bit more left in the tank tonight."

He did. And although he wouldn’t get to prove it that night, or even the next week, he proved it just over a month later, topping his 18.23 seconds at the NCAA Championships on Thursday and breaking his own world record, finishing in 18.20 seconds.

On Saturday, the sophomore claimed his third national title, swimming the 100-yard freestyle in 40.46 seconds, the fastest time in that event in recorded history.

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Over the last decade, Florida has been a school mostly known for its football, baseball and basketball teams, and even for its championship-winning softball and gymnastics programs.

Not many think about the swimming team. Here’s why you should.

Dressel will undoubtedly represent U.S.A at the Rio Olympic Games in August.

If he’s able to replicate his scores at the SEC and NCAA meets this season, Dressel would almost assuredly take home gold medals.

He’s arguably the best athlete that Florida has to offer, and it’s because he has perfected his craft better than almost anyone in the world, not just across collegiate athletics.

And he’s 19.

"I dove in, popped out a good time. So it worked," Dressel said after breaking the 50-free record in February, as if describing his last experience at the local movie theater.

Even after three national titles and multiple broken records, it’s OK if you’ve never heard of Caeleb Dressel.

Because you will.

A video posted to Florida Gators.com contributed to this report.

Ian Cohen is the sports editor. You can contact him at icohen@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @icohenb.

Florida's Caeleb Dressel reacts after winning the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Atlanta. The initials on his face are in honor of a former teacher. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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