Last year, the Tennessee Volunteer women beat the Florida Gators at home and established strong momentum going into the SEC Championship meet, where they shocked the country by finishing 2nd ahead of the Gators. This year, the meet returned to the Swamp, where it was senior night for the home-team Florida. Without any exhibitioning, the Florida women won 167-133, while the Florida men (a much bigger favorite) won in dominating fashion 208-92.
After the Tennessee men beat Georgia last weekend, being handled by Florida like that will be a blow to the momentum that they had built.
Tennessee’s women started the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay in a 1:38.44, which beat a 1:39.37 from Florida in an event where they are really good but still really young.
Florida, though, fought back hard in the next event, the 1000 free, where they finished 1st-through-4th (though only the top three spots counted for scoring), topped by a 9:41.8 from British freshman Jessica Thielmann. That’s about a second slower than she was against Auburn last weekend, but along with NCAA Champions Haley Anderson and Stephanie Peacock is one of only three swimmers in the country to go under 9:45 twice this season.
Her teammate Alicia Mathieu, who has had a very good season of her own, was 2nd in 9:48.28.
Tennessee’s Lindsay Gendron, the only Volunteer who would have been able to challenge Florida in the longer race, instead saved her energy for the next race the 200. She won the 200 in 1:44.43. That’s the second-straight week that she has been a 1:44, and this season-best time ties her for 4th in the country this season. Florida, though, still kept the scoring in the event even with a 2-4 finish; a great last 75 yards by Jamie Bohunicky was just held off by Gendron, but the Gator still was easily a season-best in 1:44.57. Freshman Sinead Russell, best known as a backstroker, was 3rd in 1:45.21: her personal best. Florida’s 800 free relay, which at NCAA’s will likely add Olympian Elizabeth Beisel, is shaping up as a serious top-3 contender for NCAA’s.
Russell hopped right back in with a 54.10 to win the 100 backstroke. Tennessee got one back when Molly Hannis won the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.65 ahead of a 1:04.20 from Hilda Luthersdottir. That time from Luthersdottir kind of betrayed what we saw from most of the Florida team as it was actually her slowest in the event this season. Still, Tennessee’s breaststroke group is very thin, and they went 2-4 again to not let the Volunteers make up any ground.
The 200 fly was the same story: a 1:57.9 from Kelsey Floyd won, but a 2-3-4(-5)from Florida underclassmen nearly matched her points.
The Gators got back in the win column in the 50 free in a matchup between two of the top freshman sprinters in the country. Natalie Hinds touched first in 22.74, with Faith Johnson taking 2nd in 22.79. Tennessee’s other sprinter, Caroline Simmons who had a huge taper last season, was 3rd in 22.94.
At this point, the meet was still pretty close, but Florida began pulling away in the very next race after a dive break: the 100 free. Hinds won again in 49.02, but this time Florida’s Ellese Zalewski took 2nd in 50.13, coming-from-behind to nip Johnson at the touch (50.20).
Another 1-2 finish in the 200 back (Elizabeth Beisel won in 1:57.69) stretched the lead past 20 and Tennessee wasn’t able to fight back after that, despite dominating the final 400 free relay 3:17.20-3:21.64 (with a 48.71 anchor from Gendron). The best swim in the back-half of the meet was a 52.97 from Floyd to win the 100 fly, but it would be fitting that another Florida 2-3-4 followed that (Hinds was 2nd in 53.56) to match that.
In the men’s meet, things started out well for Tennessee in the 200 medley relay, where they’ve been really good this year, as they won in 1:28.26. Unlike what we saw last week against Georgia, though, this relay was won by the front-half of Sam Rairden and Renato Prono. Florida’s Bradley deBorde anchored in a 19.18, but still trying to find their best front-side combination left them in too much of a hole to overcome. Their only win for the rest of the meet was freshman Sean Lehane in 1:45.08.
Florida wasn’t at their best at this meet, but they didn’t really need to be either. Sebastien Rousseau swept the butterflies in 48.74 and 1:45.34, respectively. His teammate Pawel Werner had probably the best dual meet of his freshman campaign with the Gators; he took 2nd to Rousseau in the 100 fly in 48.98 and also won the 100 free in 44.0.
The Gators, another team who is looking for a truly-elite solution for the breaststrokes, used Sebastien Rousseau interestingly on the medley. He was on the “A,” but was outsplit by his younger teammate Matt Elliott who was on the “C”. Elliott then would sweep both the 100 (54.97 to overtake Tennessee’s Ricky Prono in 55.01) and the 200 (1:59.09), he’s really stepping up this year to answer the biggest question mark for this team.
Both teams are now done until the SEC Championships in three weeks.
Full meet results available here.