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Thursday, May 26, 2022
Florida's Oskar Lindholm competes in the 500 free during a meet against Georgia on Oct. 29.
Florida's Oskar Lindholm competes in the 500 free during a meet against Georgia on Oct. 29.

An important weekend of swim and dive looms on the horizon for the Gators as they face a mix of SEC and non-conference competition in Atlanta this weekend. 

Georgia Tech hosts UF, Georgia, Auburn, Florida State, and Iowa for the GT Invitational in a weekend of action among some of the nation’s top-ranked programs. 

This marks the first invite of the 2021-2022 season for the Gators’ No. 5 ranked men’s team and No. 8 ranked women’s team should help warm them up for the upcoming U.S. Open competition in Greensboro as well as prepare the team for further in-conference meets, as the loaded SEC features 13 men’s and women’s teams ranked in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America preseason top 25

Florida is off to a strong start to its season thus far, coming off a huge sweep against Georgia, a team ranked as one of the best in the country. The men’s team emerged victorious, 180-120, and won 10 of 16 events, while the women earned a 154-147 victory over the ‘Dawgs. 

Divers Leo Garcia and Elizabeth Perez shined during the rivalry weekend meet, both sweeping the 1-meter and 3m events and picking up SEC Diver of the Week accolades along the way. The men’s team swept the relay events, while junior Talia Bates led the way for the women by winning all three of her individual events. The Gators seem primed for strong performances across the whole roster this weekend. 

Georgia enters into the meet ranked No. 8 among men’s teams and No. 9 among women, still one of the top ranked teams in the nation despite succumbing to Florida. UGA rebounded quickly after its loss, however, sweeping past Auburn’s No. 20-ranked men and No. 15-ranked women this past weekend. The Bulldogs’ roster features 14 All-Americans between both teams. 

The Tigers make the trip themselves, looking to bounce back after falling to the Bulldogs and make some noise in the Peach State. The Tigers met a tough stretch of meets earlier this season, having taken on four ranked men’s and women’s teams besides Georgia, but still managed to split two series and sweep one. 

Auburn, led by first-year coach Ryan Wochomurka, faces a second rematch this weekend, as the Tigers split in a matchup versus FSU earlier in the season.

Florida State comes into the invitational off a strong start to their season, which kicked off with a first-place finish at the TYR Classic in Miami. The Seminoles are familiar with Auburn and swept Georgia Tech already in 2021. 

FSU most recently took four overall wins in a quad meet against Florida Southern, West Florida, and North Florida. The ‘Noles attempt to assert themselves as one of the nation’s top programs with the No. 19 ranked men and a women’s team which received three top-25 votes. 

The host Georgia Tech will look to defend its home water against the fierce competitors. The No. 21 men and unranked women have teamed for an up and down season so far. They swept the Savannah College of Art and Design in their season opener followed by their sweep at the hands of Florida State. The Yellow Jackets have since looked better with splits against NR/No. 22 Duke and No. 25/No. 18 North Carolina.

Tech’s recent improvement featured some notable standout individual performances. Mert Kilavuz set a school record in the 1000 free with a (9:01.21), and earned Atlantic Coast Conference weekly honors alongside teammate and diver Ruben Lechuga. 

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Iowa has the most to prove among the competition as the only team with unranked men’s and women’s teams. The Hawkeyes will only send the women’s diving program to compete in Atlanta, however, as the rest of the program heads further south toward Miami for a separate invitational. Iowa is led by first-year coach Nathan Mundt, who took the reins from Marc Long after 17 seasons.

The Hawkeyes got off to a rough start, with the women’s program having yet to win a meet. The individual diving performances have been impressive, with two divers earning NCAA Zone Cuts already despite the team’s losses.

The Gators will have a daunting challenge ahead of them if they want to seize the opportunity and make a powerful statement with a win at the GT Invitational, starting Nov. 18 at 10 a.m. in Atlanta. 

Contact Jackson Castellano at Find him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.

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