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Sunday, March 03, 2024

Florida’s swimming and diving teams entered a hostile environment on Saturday morning for their regular season finale. In front of a Senior Day crowd in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Volunteers swept the Gators in the final dual meet of the season.

For Florida’s No. 9-ranked men’s squad (7-2, 2-2 SEC), a three-spot advantage to the No. 12-ranked Vols wasn’t enough to keep the Gators’ heads above the water as Florida dropped its second meet of the season 156-144. The women’s team also struggled as it dropped its first loss of the season 170.5-129.5.

Despite the loss, Florida sophomore Kieran Smith, who won the SEC’s Male Swimmer of the Week earlier this week, managed to have quite the meet for himself, hauling in three gold medals for the second consecutive meet.

Early in the meet, Smith picked up back-to-back gold medals in the 1000 free with a personal-best time of 9:01.86 and the 200 free with a time of 1:35.97. Later, the sophomore also nabbed gold and another personal best in the 500 free with a time of 4:18.13.

Florida’s men also performed well in the 400 individual medley and took the top three spots.

Senior Grant Sanders (3:51.61), freshman Kevin Vargas (3:54.01) and sophomore Miguel Cancel (3:54.23) touched the wall consecutively to take all the hardware in the 400 IM.

For Florida’s No. 8-ranked women’s team, coming into Tennessee, it knew it would have its hands full in squaring off against the No. 4-ranked Volunteers.

Florida’s women (11-1, 4-1 SEC) started the meet off strong, winning the 200 medley relay.

Senior Emma Ball, sophomore Vanessa Pearl, senior Sherridon Dressel and senior Bella Garofalo combined for a time of 1:38.54, securing their first gold medal of the day.

Dressel and Pearl each picked up additional wins on the day in the 100 back (52.02) and in the 200 breast (2:10.51), respectively.

Florida’s women’s diving team produced an impressive showing on Saturday as junior Ashley McCool picked up a gold medal in the 3-meter dive (348.08) and a silver in the 1-meter dive (293.18). Senior Brooke Madden also grabbed a piece of gold on the 1-meter board (297.98), while sophomore Elizabeth Perez picked up a silver on the 3-meter board (316.58) and a bronze on the 1-meter board (282.60).

Both of Florida’s squads return to action next week in the Auburn Last Chance Invitational. The three-day invitational begins on Friday and will wrap up on Sunday.

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

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