The Gators men’s swimming team entered the pool this week carrying with them one goal: to compete for a national championship.
The last time the Gators men’s swimming and diving team competed, it captured its seventh SE…
After the first day of the NCAA Championships on Wednesday at the Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin, Texas, UF sits in a comfortable spot to do so.
The sole event of the day, the 800-meter freestyle relay, was met with a powerful performances by juniors Maxime Rooney and Khader Baqlah, and freshmen Trey Freeman and Kieran Smith.
The squad notched the fastest time in program history (6:09.14), enough to earn fifth place and First Team All-American honors for all.
It is the sixth All-American honor of Rooney’s career and should serve as a nice complement to the two SEC Swimmer of the Week honors he’s already earned this season.
Baqlah collected his fifth All-American honor after the swim in his third NCAA appearance. Freeman and Smith each secured their first such honor in their introduction to championship competition.
“The first one is always the hardest. Luckily our guys did a really good job racing,” coach Anthony Nesty said in a release Wednesday. “We still have lots of swimming left. Hopefully we get a good night’s sleep and get ready to go tomorrow.”
Florida produced similar results on Thursday
The Gators started the day with 28 points, not too far behind championship-caliber teams like Texas and California, who have combined to win eight of the last nine, with host UT being four-time defending champions.
Rooney and Smith swam on the same team again in the 200-meter freestyle relay with similar success. Joined by redshirt senior Bayley Main and freshman Will Davis, the contingent finished third in the consolation final, more than enough to earn each of them All-American honorable mentions.
Smith followed his team performance with an individual accolade, finishing eighth in the 200-meter individual medley final to pick up his third All-American honor of the week.
Also from that relay team on Day 1 of competition, freshman Trey Freeman finished in seventh in the 500-meter freestyle, one spot ahead of junior teammate Khader Baqlah. Both earned their second All-American awards of the week with honorable-mention honors.
Freeman capped off a rookie campaign that saw him win two SEC Freshman of the Week honors, and one SEC Swimmer of the Week award.
Through two days of competition, Florida currently sits in fifth place with 76 points. It trails fourth place North Carolina State, who has 136 points.
With two more full days of national championship action left, the Gators will need to improve if they are to thoroughly contend for the program’s first title since 1984.
Follow Jack Braverman on Twitter @jack_braverman and contact him at [email protected].