OCALA - Florida’s swimming and diving teams entered Friday afternoon favored in the Sunshine Showdown. The Gators swept the Seminoles In front of the crowd in Ocala, Florida .
Florida’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs took down the Florida State Seminoles’ No. 16 men and unranked women. The No. 3 men (5-1, 1-1 SEC) won 179-118, while the No. 7 women (6-1, 3-0 SEC) earned a 191-103 victory. The Gators secured 21 B-cut times and won 28 of the 32 total events Friday.
Florida freshman Zoe Dixon — who earned the title of Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week — hauled in three first-place finishes.
Dixon picked up first place and B-cuts in the 200-meter butterfly, with a time of 1:57.89, and the 200-meter backstroke, with a time of 1:55.02. The freshman later swam a 4:14.58 in the 400-meter individual medley, good for another first-place finish and B-cut.
Florida’s women started the meet strong, winning the 200-meter medley relay.
Senior Talia Bates, graduate student Nina Kucheran, sophomore Olivia Peoples and senior Katie Mack combined for a time of 1:38.69 to secure the first win of the day.
Kucheran picked up additional winning times in the 100-meter breaststroke, 1:01.61, and 200-meter breaststroke, 2:12.94.
Florida’s women and men shined in the 1,650-meter freestyle and took the top three spots.
For the women, sophomore Emma Weyant, freshman Hayden Miler and sophomore Anna Auld touched the wall consecutively to take the top finishes in the event. Weyant finished with a 16:08.24, Miler with a 16:21.39 and Auld with a 16:31.88
For the men, sophomore Aryan Nehra’s time of 14:58.52, junior Jack VanDeusen’s 15:16.45 and senior Tyler Watson’s effort of 15:17.43 outperformed the Seminoles to take all the top finishes in the event for the men.
Florida’s women secured the top three finishes in the 200-meter freestyle. Sophomore Ekaterina Nikonova, 1:47.80, senior Tylor Mathieu, 1:48.43, and Talia Bates, 1:48.48, touched the wall consecutively. The Gators’ men went one-two in a close race between senior Alfonso Mestre, 1:37.02, and junior Jake Mitchell, 1:37.16, in the men’s 200-meter freestyle.
Florida sophomore Ekaterina Nikonova won the women’s 50-meter freestyle, while freshman Gator Joshua Liendo won on the men’s side. Nikonova followed up her win with a first-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle. Mestre secured another winning time in the men’s 100-meter freestyle.
The Gators showed off their deep distance roster with Miller and Mestre winning first place in the 500-meter freestyle for women and men, respectively. Miller finished with a 4:46.39 to finish more than 12 seconds ahead of second place.
Florida’s women’s diving team produced an impressive showing Saturday. Redshirt senior Maha Amer picked up first place in the 3-meter dive, 319.95, and the 1-meter dive, 329.10. Sophomore Elettra Neroni came in third in the 1-meter dive with a score of 283.20.
Senior Leonardo Garcia was named co-SEC diver of the week and led the men’s diving team to an impressive win. Garcia missed the school record by just one point in the 3-meter dive with a 439.43. Garcia earned first place in the 1-meter dive with a 359.10.
The Gators and Seminoles opted for a new location for this season’s meet. The Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training facility in Ocala opened in March 2022, and serves as a neutral location for the long-standing rivals. Ocala is the hometown to two Gators, junior Elise Bauer and junior Wesley Hyde. Bauer finished sixth in the 200-meter butterfly and competed in the exhibition of the 500-meter freestyle.
The Gators competed against the Seminoles in platform diving at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville Saturday.
Junior Anton Svirskyi secured first place and a career-best in the platform with a score of 434.03.
Florida’s women swept the top four spots on the leaderboard. Neroni nabbed first place, 288.83; Amer came in second with a score of 267.30; sophomore Carina Lumia finished third with a 249.00; and junior Caroline Pagac earned fourth with a 243.68.
Both of Florida’s squads return to action from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5 in the Auburn Last Chance Invitational after a bye week. The three-day invitational begins Friday and will wrap up Sunday.
Jori Rzepecki is a first-year journalism major and the Gymnastics reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching television shows and reading books.