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Friday, March 01, 2024

Florida men close out season with top-10 NCAA finish

Joshua Liendo became only swimmer to ever record a less-than 43-second time in his 400-yard medley relay leg

Florida diver Leonardo Garcia dives during the Gators' meet against the Florida Atlantic Owls Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
Florida diver Leonardo Garcia dives during the Gators' meet against the Florida Atlantic Owls Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

The No. 3 Florida men’s swimming and diving team sent 15 swimmers and two divers to the 2023 Men’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships.

The team traveled to the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota and competed from March 22 to March 25. 

The opening night ended strong with a fourth-place finish for the Gators, just two points short of third place. 

In the 200-yard medley relay final, Florida junior Adam Chaney, freshman Aleksas Savickas, senior 

Eric Friese and freshman Joshua Liendo ranked third. Liendo pushed Florida into the top three with his 18.03-second 50-yard freestyle split, the fastest in the event. 

The relay team clocked 1:21.14 minutes to claim the second-fastest time in school history. North Carolina State and Arizona State both achieved never-before times.

In the 800-yard freestyle relay, sophomore Macguire McDuff, junior Jake Mitchell, sophomore Julian Smith and senior Alfonso Mestre took fifth place with a 6:08.79-minute time. Florida took home a top-five title with McDuff’s 1:31.56-minute leadoff split and Smith’s 1:31.92-minute anchor split.

All four swimmers earned All-American honors.

The Gators broke a nearly 14-year-old record on the second night of the NCAAs. 

Liendo, Chaney, Friese and McDuff returned to the pool as the Florida 200-yard freestyle relay team. 

The team came just 0.08 seconds off the previous record — set by Auburn in 2009 — at the most recent Southeastern Conference Championships. 

Liendo started the event with a leadoff split of 18.22 seconds to secure the lead. Chaney swam an 18.37-second split, and Friese followed with a time of 18.64 seconds. McDuff’s final anchor leg tied for the fastest split in the race with an 18.12-second run.

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The Florida men smashed the NCAA record by 0.73 of a second, winning with a 1:13.35-minute time. They broke the meet, school, U.S. Open, and pool records. 

The team secured first place and earned Florida 40 additional points.

“To see everyone stand up and give their best,” Liendo said, “it was great to watch and be part of.”

Both Mestre and Mitchell qualified for the A-final during the 500-yard freestyle preliminaries. Mestre ranked fourth at 4:10.78 minutes, and Mitchell took seventh with a 4:11.65-minute time.

Smith claimed a spot in the B-final in the 200-yard individual medley preliminaries with a 1:42.08-minute time.

Liendo placed third in the 50-yard freestyle preliminaries with an 18.54-second time and a seat in the A-final.

Senior Leonardo Garcia advanced to the B-final in the 1-meter preliminary dive with 356.20 points and 11th place.

Liendo became the national runner-up in the 50-yard freestyle with an 18.40-second time. He ended his freshman season with the title of fastest 50-yard freestyle freshman swimmer in NCAA history 

Mitchell finished fifth, and Mestre landed eighth in the 500-yard freestyle. He geared up in the final leg to finish in 24.49 seconds and picked up a top-five spot.

In the 200-yard individual medley finals, Smith earned his first-career individual All-American honor with a 1:42.79-minute time. 

Garcia received an honorable mention All-American in the 1-meter with 328.15 points in the B-final. 

He claimed his highest finish in the event at the NCAAs and his fifth All-American career honor.

Florida broke relay records for back-to-back nights on day three.

The 400-yard medley relay team of Chaney, Hillis, Liendo and McDuff broke a five-year record. They posted a 2:58.32-minute time and became the first team in NCAA history to finish in less than 2:59 minutes.

Liendo split the fastest butterfly leg ever recorded in the relay with a 42.91-second time. 

“I have these guys to train with every day, and they push me,” Liendo said. “I’ve learned a lot from Florida.”

Chaney began the relay with a 44.28-second backstroke split, and Hillis followed with a 50.23-second breaststroke split. McDuff anchored a 40.90-second freestyle split. 

The 400-yard individual medley preliminaries ended with sophomore Mason Laur in tenth place and a spot in the B-final. 

Liendo claimed the fastest time in the NCAA this year with a first place, 43.80-second time in the 100-yard butterfly preliminaries and an A-final spot. 

In the 200-yard freestyle preliminaries, Mitchell claimed a B-final spot with a 1:32.56-minute time. 

Hillis advanced to the A-final in the 100-yard breaststroke preliminary round. Savickas ranked ninth with a 51.14-second time, and Smith ranked 14th with a 51.34-second time. Both swimmers advanced to the B-final. 

Chaney was third with a 44.28-second time and advanced to the A-final. 

The 3-meter preliminary ended with senior Skip Donald in 31st place with 332.70 points and Garcia in 47th place with 294.75 points. 

Liendo recorded the third-fastest 100-yard butterfly time ever at 43.10 seconds to finish in second place overall. He picked up his fourth All-American honor of the week and now owns the title of the fastest 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly time ever by a freshman. 

Laur recorded a 3:40.77-minute time in the B-final of the 400-yard individual medley. Laur finished 11th in the nation and earned his first career All-American honor. 

Chaney ranked fourth in the country in the 100-yard backstroke with a 44.42-second time. He tallied another top-four finish at the NCAA Championships in the 100-yard backstroke. 

Hillis swam a personal-best time of 50.88 seconds in both the preliminary and final to earn an All-American honor in his final Gator individual event. 

The Florida men closed a historic week with another broken relay record. 

Liendo, Chaney, Smith and McDuff clocked a 2:44.97-minute time in the 400-yard freestyle relay to claim the title of the fastest 400-yard freestyle relay team ever. 

“Obviously you want to do the best on the relays, so super happy to get the win there and the record,” McDuff said. 

Florida knocked out California by 0.01 of a second. Liendo finished his split in 41.10 seconds;Chaney and Smith ended in 41.26 seconds; and McDuff completed the split in 41.05 seconds. 

“We deserve it for how hard we work,” Liendo said. “To see Macguire come back there at the end and get it done, that’s why we call him Showtime.”

Liendo wrapped up his freshman season as the second-fastest swimmer in 100-yard freestyle history at 40.28 seconds to trail behind only Caeleb Dressel. 

The Olympian became the second Gator ever to win the 100-yard freestyle. 

Savickas ranked fifth in the 200-yard breaststroke with a 1:50.48-minute time and earned an All-American honor. 

In the A-final platform dive, Garcia earned 366.35 points. He tied for sixth place in the country and now is a six-time All-American.

In the 100-yard freestyle B-final, Chaney swam a 41.93-second leg, and McDuff finished in 41.97 seconds to go 13-14. 

Florida had the most claimed spots by any team in the NCAA 100-yard freestyle with three of the 14.

In the 200-yard butterfly, Pinero ended in tenth place with a clocked time of 1:41.62 minutes. He registered a top-10 finish and his first-career All-American honor.

The Gators landed three All-American honors in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Mestre shaved more than eight seconds off his season-best time and won the second heat with a 14:44.50-minute time and a tenth-place finish. 

Senior Tyler Watson placed 12th with a 14:46.27-minute time, and Linscheer claimed 16th with a personal-best time of 14:48.63 minutes. 

The Florida men’s swimming and diving team ended in sixth place with 367.5 points. For the first time since the 2014-2015 season, both Florida men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams secured a top-10 finish in the NCAAs.

Contact Krisha Sanghavi at ksanghavi@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @krishasang.

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Krisha Sanghavi

Krisha Sanghavi is a third-year public relations and economics major. In her free time, she loves cheering on Miami sports teams and spending time with her friends.


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