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Friday, December 03, 2021
<p>Caeleb Dressel set an American, NCAA and UF record, swimming a 39.90 in the 100 free at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.</p>

Caeleb Dressel set an American, NCAA and UF record, swimming a 39.90 in the 100 free at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.

Today, we focus on individual effort.

The 2017-18 athletics season saw some of the greatest solo performances in school history. Senior swimmer Caeleb Dressel and softball pitcher Kelly Barnhill etched their names into the Florida record books, while athletes from all over UF pitched in outstanding efforts of their own.

Sports writers Brendan Farrell, Andrew Huang, Mark Stine, Chris O’Brien and Evan Lepak chose their picks for this week’s alligatorSports Award: Best Individual Performance.

Brendan: Picking Caeleb Dressel for this award is like picking the Raiders in Tecmo Bowl. You feel bad because Dressel, like Bo Jackson in that video game, is the easy pick and you pretty much win because of him, but that’s just how dominant Caeleb Dressel is.

It all began on March 22. It’s Day 2 of the NCAA National Championships. Dressel is competing in two events: the 200 freestyle relay and the 50 free. Before that day, no one had ever broken the 18-second mark in either event.

Dressel did it twice. In one day.

Dressel was the opening leg on the Gators’ 200-yard freestyle relay team and clocked in at 17.81 seconds, while the relay as a whole set a new school record of 1:14.39 and won the school’s first men’s championship in the 200 free relay.

In an encore performance in the 50 free, he actually improved. Dressel blew his competition away with a time of 17.63 seconds. With the win, Dressel was the 14th male swimmer to ever sweep an event and the first to sweep the 50 free. And he wasn’t even done at the NCAA Championships. Not even close.

Moving on to Day 3, Dressel set another record in the 100 fly, becoming the first to break the 43-second barrier in the event, clocking in at 42.80. Dressel’s victory was his second national championship in that event.

For the last day of the NCAA National Championships, competing in the 100 free, Dressel broke down one more swimming barrier by becoming the first to swim the event in under 40 seconds, coming in at 39.90 seconds.

For those counting at home, between preliminaries and finals, that’s four records and four titles in four days of competition. That’s a level of dominance that most definitely wasn’t matched by any other UF athlete, and I don’t think it is one that ever will be.

 

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@Bfarrell727

bfarrell@alligator.org

 

Andrew: On Tuesday, I explained why Jalen Hudson was the UF athletic department’s Newcomer of the Year.

Today, I’m nominating Hudson’s monster night against Gonzaga in the 2017 PK80 tournament for Best Individual Performance. Hudson poured in a career-high 35 points and helped Florida advance, 111-105, to its bracket’s championship game against Duke.

He was quiet early, picking up a pair of fouls in the opening 10 minutes, and he ended the first half with just four points dealing with foul trouble.

Then came the second half. Hudson exploded for 19 of UF’s 49 points in the frame. The rising senior knocked down five of his eight three-point attempts, including a clutch make with less than two minutes remaining, cutting a four-point Bulldogs lead to one. He also made 5-of-6 shots from the foul line.

The game went to double overtime, and Hudson was instrumental in preventing a third extra period.

He sank three more triples in extra time. The final two, both in the second overtime, were crucial. First, Hudson put the Gators up for good, 100-97, with 2:53 on the clock. Then at the 1:44 mark he made another, extending the Florida lead to 106-99. Talk about clutch.

 

@AndrewJHuang

ahuang@alligator.org

 

Chris: With a quick shoutout to gymnast Alex McMurtry’s destruction of both Oklahoma and Arkansas, Caeleb Dressel, pitcher Jackson Kowar’s 13-strikeout game and Grant Holloway's world record in the 60-meter at the Tiger Paw Invitational, this award clearly belongs to softball pitcher Kelly Barnhill.

But which of her performances was the best one? I could go with one of her TWO no-hitters against both North Florida and then-No. 23 Kentucky, or I could select her perfect game against Georgia Southern.

Picking between those gems is like trying to choose between a Yuengling, a Blue Moon and a Sam Adams Boston - either way, I’m getting a really solid product.

So screw it, I’m just going to go with all three.

Barnhill just bamboozled North Florida. In five innings, she struck out 12 Ospreys. In five innings. Let it sink in that she mowed down 12 of the 16 batters she faced (her only gaffe was a hit-by-pitch in the top of the fifth) as Florida routed UNF 9-0. I’d get bored out there if I was playing defense behind Barnhill.

But hey, in the spirit of one-upping herself, she threw another no-hitter against UK a few weeks later. How many did she strike out this time? Thirteen. Against a nationally-ranked SEC team? Wow.

But the perfect game was a spectacle. Georgia Southern stood no chance against the flamethrower as she didn’t allow a hit, a HBP or a walk throughout the contest. Eleven strikeouts on 56 pitches in just five innings? Masterful.

Maybe I should just go with the perfect game.

But no, her other performances are much too spectacular to leave out.

The Gators are going to be a force next year as Barnhill returns for her senior season.

 

@THEChrisOB

cobrien@alligator.org

 

Mark: Come on, the best performance on the 2017-18 came from the man voted SEC Male Athlete of the Year: Caeleb Dressel.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist won four national titles over the course of a week at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in March. He took gold in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 free, 200 free relay and 100 butterfly, becoming the first UF swimmer to win four national championships in one meet.

The four titles also placed him first in program history with 10 NCAA Championships (nine individual), two more than the notorious Ryan Lochte.

On March 22, Dressel set record splits in the 50-free three times. In the preliminary round, he broke his own American record by recording a time of 18.11. Later, he smashed that record with a split of 17.81. Then hours later in the 50 free final, he put up an astounding 17.63.

“I know everybody in the world of swimming probably expected 17.9, but I don’t really care about other people’s expectations. I want to set my own,’’ Dressel said in a release. “That’s where 17.6 came from. Just a number that popped in my head and I thought it was possible.”

Dressel backed up that performance with another record-breaker in the 100 free final. He set a new American record with a 39.90 time to conclude his UF career.

 

@mstinejr

mstine@alligator.org

 

Evan: The best individual performance in my mind came from a guy who caught fire in the month of May, helping lead the Florida men’s golf team to a record performance in the NCAA Kissimmee Regional.

Sophomore Andy Zhang started where he left off from his SEC Championship victory a few weeks earlier, shooting an outstanding 13 under from Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, and giving him his second individual title in as many tries.

Zhang would go on to score a 203 through 54 holes of play, edging out his teammate freshman Chris Nido by a single stroke.

The sophomore from Beijing’s three-day performance was good enough to tie Billy Horschel for fourth-best score in program history.

The fact that he only bogeyed on two of 54 holes at the course may be more impressive than the 15 birdies he amassed. And he would stay consistent through all three rounds of play, shooting a 68 (4 under) on Friday, a 68 (4 under) on Saturday and a 67 (5 under) on Sunday.

Zhang’s performance might not be as flashy as some of the other finalists, but any performance that helps attribute to a team record in the postseason deserves some definite recognition.

 

@evanmplepakkk

elepak@alligator.org

Caeleb Dressel set an American, NCAA and UF record, swimming a 39.90 in the 100 free at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships.

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