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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A first-place finish, a No. 2 spot in SportsCenter’s Top-10, a three-body-length lead and a 4:06.32 swim.

The mathematician is Florida sophomore Kieran Smith and the sum of the equation is an American and NCAA record.

At the SEC swimming and diving championships in Auburn, Alabama, Florida’s men’s team is competing for its eighth-consecutive conference title, and Smith is certainly helping in the Gators’ quest.

In day one of the five-day meet, Smith and the other members of the Gators’ men’s 800 free relay team snatched a gold medal after its performance broke school and conference records.

Composed of Smith, Gerry Quinn, Khader Baqlah and Clark Beach, the quartet of Gator swimmers touched the wall in 6:09.91.

Smith, who jumped off of the blocks first for Florida, set a SEC Championship record, a UF record, a new personal-best and the fourth fastest 200 free swim ever with his split of 1:30.11.

On day two of the action, Smith returned to the pool for the 500 free event.

In the Ridgefield, Connecticut, native’s record-breaking swim, he beat the previous American record by nearly a full second.

The fastest time was held previously by Zane Grothe with a time of 4:07.25. Smith’s swim of 4:06.32 etched his name into the record books.

Prior to the SEC Championships, Smith’s best time was 4:18.13. He managed a 4:14.55 during Wednesday morning’s prelims.

“It’s special. Going into the meet, we knew we could be around 4:08’s maybe, but 4:06 was (an) incredible swim,” Smith said of his record-breaking performance in a release. “Lights out. It just felt really, really good throughout the whole time.”

As it is, Smith and the Gators are maintaining a second-place spot in the meet’s field of 11 teams. Texas A&M leads the pack with 438 points. The Gators are on the Aggies’ heels with 395 points.

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The conference champion will be crowned on Saturday night. But Gainesville already has a champion of its own.

The women’s squad had a conference-best 13 swimmers qualify for Wednesday night’s finals. Sophomore Vanessa Pearl won the 200 individual medley after a swim of 1:54.80 — good for the seventh-best time in the NCAA.

As of Wednesday night, Florida’s women were also second in the conference championships with 356.5 points. Tennessee leads the women’s field of 12 teams with 385.

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

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