Another season for the men’s swimming and diving team has come and gone, extending a streak of conference dominance and contending for a national championship in the process.
Florida remained relatively competitive throughout the entirety of this past week’s NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, ultimately finishing in sixth place with 164 points, still far from a dynastic California team, who has combined with Texas to win nine of the last 10 championships. Stripping the four-year title defense away from Texas, Cal earned its first title since 2014, with a scintillating 560-point total.
Through the first two days, the Gators found themselves in fifth place, needing any sort of late-minute performance or spark that could jolt them back into title contention.
That spark never came.
The third day of competition on Friday equated to more of the same — strong performances but not quite enough. Junior Maxime Rooney led the Gators’ effort, clocking the highest individual finish for UF of the entire championships. A fourth-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly final was more than sufficient to earn him a First-Team All-American nod for the ninth time in his collegiate career.
Freshmen Kieran Smith and Kacper Stokowski, juniors Grant Sanders and Khader Baqlah and the relay team of Stokowski, Smith, freshman Will Davis and junior Marco Guarente also earned at least one All-American honor.
“The biggest thing that stood out tonight was the resilience of our guys,” coach Anthony Nesty said in a release. “Tonight was fantastic. The IM, Fly, Free, Back and Medley Relay all showed up for us tonight.”
Saturday, the final day of NCAA action, saw more UF successes. Sophomore Clark Beach earned his first All-American honor with a First-Team nod for his sixth-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke final. Smith finished seventh in the same event’s consolation final, earning his sixth All-American award as well.
In total, 16 Florida swimmers earned All-American accolades, including six first-team and 10 honorable-mention honors. For the seventh-consecutive year, the Gators placed the highest of any SEC program at the championships.
It concludes a year highlighted by a 9-1 overall record, including a victory over then-No.1 Texas on the road, and a seventh straight SEC title, won in commanding fashion.
The Gators proved that they have the ability to compete on a national level and can build off this experience into next year’s campaign.
“I am incredibly proud of this team and their enormous perseverance at this NCAA Championship,” Nesty said. “We remain dedicated and motivated to pursue our team goals.”
Follow Jack Braverman on Twitter @jack_braverman and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Alex Lebed competed in his fourth NCAA Championships. The Gators finished competition in sixth place.