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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

On Saturday afternoon, 24 of Florida’s swimmers and divers will jump into the O’Dome Natatorium water in their final dual meet as Gators when the Auburn Tigers come to town.

The No. 9-ranked men’s team (6-1, 1-1 SEC) will recognize 11 seniors while the eighth-ranked women’s team (10-0, 2-0 SEC) will celebrate 13 seniors of its own.

For the men, their opponent comes into Gainesville unranked with a record of 5-1 (2-0 in SEC). The Tigers are led by Davis Edwards and Owen Upchurch who are both finding success as of late.

During a home win against Gardner-Webb on Jan. 17, Edwards, a freshman, won the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:34.04. Meanwhile, Upchurch found victories in both the 100 and 200 freestyle.

In the orange and blue, the men’s team has stepped away from competition with its last meet having been Dec. 7 at the Toyota U.S. Open where it saw three of its swimmers bring hardware back to Gainesville.

Kieran Smith nabbed a silver medal during the open with his swim in the 400 freestyle, while Clark Beach (200 back) and Robert Finke (1,650 free) each managed to grab bronze. Finke’s 1,650 free (14:47.51) leads the SEC by four full seconds.

“It’s going to be a great feeling getting back into the water and competing in a dual meet again,” men’s coach Anthony Nesty said. “It’s been a while...We look forward to some tough competition from Auburn.”

For the women, Auburn (4-1, 1-1 in SEC) visits the O’Connell Center as the No. 14 team in the country.

The Tigers’ Julie Meynen contributes to Auburn’s sprint efforts with a time of 47.73 seconds in the 100 freestyle. Meynen’s time currently sits as the third-best in the SEC.

However, the Gators’ and the Tigers’ two distance swimmers will likely bring the most attention come Saturday.

While Florida’s distance swims are led by Leah Braswell, who leads the SEC in the 1,000 free (9:34.47) and the 1,650 free (15:47.85), Auburn’s Emily Hetzer touches the wall soon thereafter.

Hetzer’s leading times this season are 9:43.67 in the 1,000 free and 16:09.24 in the 1,650.

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Additionally, in the diving pool, Auburn’s Alison Maillard has received conference-wide attention all year long and has picked up three SEC Diver of the Week recognitions this season. Maillard also holds the top score in the SEC for the 1-meter and 3-meter with scores of 326.55 and 347.55, respectively.

However, Florida’s Ashley McCool’s best score on the 3-meter is just 2.77 points under Maillard, making the battle on the boards an interesting one for the women.

Saturday’s dual-meet has drawn the attention of the SEC Network, which will broadcast the meet live.

Action will get underway at 11 a.m. on Saturday, and the Gators will honor the 2010 women’s national championship team during the second break of the meet.

Follow Ainslie on Twitter @AinsliesTwoBits and contact her at alee@alligator.org.

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