Over the next few weeks, as the Long Course season closes out, new freshman are arriving on campus, and fans everywhere ramp up for another exciting NCAA Season, we will be running a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NCAA season. Starting with the no.12 teams and finishing with the defending National Championships (Texas men and Florida women) we will work our way down the top finishers from last year’s NCAA teams, and will also jump into some rising teams that we expect to break into the top tier this season. Click here to see the other men’s previews, and click here to see all of the previews for both Men and Women.
Key Losses: Shaune Fraser (54 NCAA Points, 4 NCAA Relays), Roberto Gomez (2 NCAA Relays), Omar Pinzon (45 points, 2 NCAA Relays)
Key Additions: Connor Signorin (IM, Middle-Distance Everything), Eric Solis (IM/Breast), Karl Wolk (Sprint Free/Fly), Levar Goossen (Sprint Free/Fly), Jon Nunez (Sprint Free), Brad deBorde (Sprint Free)
2010 Recap: The 2010 Florida Gators men’s squad was a bit overshadowed by their female counterparts, but they put together their own very impressive season.
The leaders of this team were the brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser. The two Olympians from the Cayman Islands combined for 67 individual points and were a huge part of the Gator relays. This season, the older Shaune has graduated, but the younger Brett is a senior, and will be back as one of the team’s top performers.
Omar Pinzon, who placed fourth in the 200 IM and both backstroke events, was one of the most underrated stars in the nation last season. Although the Gators don’t lose much in terms of quantity, they lose some serious quality from the top of their lineup.
Immediate Dividends: But they also bring back one of the country’s best swimmers in Conor Dwyer. Dwyer transferred from Iowa before last season (imagine how different the national landscape would have been if Dwyer had stuck around with the Hawkeyes) and made an immediate impact for the Gators. Dwyer was named the 2010 SEC and NCAA Swimmer of the Year after claiming national titles in both the 200 and 500 freestyles, the latter by just .01 seconds (4:13.64) in the most exciting race of the meet. He also placed 11th in the 100 free in a 42.90. Dwyer will have to be strong again for the Gators to make up for the points they lost.
Middle Distance Masters: Other NCAA contributors that the Gators return include sophomore Sebastien Rousseau, who was 12th in the 400 IM and 6th in the 200 fly, and senior Balazs Gerczsak, who was 7th in the 500. Jeffrey Raymond paired with Dwyer and the Fraser brothers last year to make one of the more impressive 800 free relays in recent memory, and finished 13th in the individual 200 free. What they have returning shows that the middle-distance events are still a big strength for Florida.
Although Pinzon, the Gators’ best backstroker, graduated, Florida returns junior Marco Loughran, who is a World Junior record holder and made the A-final in both distances at NCAA’s. He also was on the 400 medley prelim squad, where he had the second fastest split in the field (behind only 100 yard champ Eugene Godsoe of Stanford).
Lacking Depth: Florida really needs to find some depth in the short-axis strokes butterfly and breaststroke. Last season, they didn’t have a single swimmer participate in the 100 breast, 200 breast, or 100 fly at NCAA’s, though Rousseau placed 6th in the 200 fly as mentioned above. They certainly have quality swimmers in each stroke to make a top-notch medley relay, but the lack of depth hurt them in the individuals. Their best 100 butterflier was Shaune Fraser, who won the SEC Championship in 45.82, and their best 100 breaststroker was Dwyer, who split a blazing 52.2 at NCAA finals. Fraser is gone this year, and Dwyer excels in too many other events to put a whole lot of focus on his breaststroke.
The Gators’ best returning sprint butterflier is Loughran, who swam a 47.0 at SEC’s, but they’re going to need a lot better than that to replace Shaune Fraser’s 45.0 on the relay. Their best returning breaststrokers (besides Dwyer) are senior Manuel Rabelo from Cuba and Rodion Davelaar from the Netherland Antilles, who both went 55.0’s last season.
This year’s recruiting class, while certainly very good, is also very small and doesn’t do a whole lot to fill these weaknesses. The top signee is Connor Signorin of New Jersey, who was a high school teammate of Nimrot Hayed, who was the number 2 rated swimmer in the country. Signorin is another middle-distances swimmer that Florida likes so much, with 2010 bests of 1:37.7/4:24.1 in the 200/500 free. He is also a very good 200 backstroker (1:48.0), 200 butterflier (1:50.0), 200 IM’er (1:49.62), and 400 IM’er (3:52.30). These times place him firmly on the threshold of NCAA qualifying in the very capable hands of Gregg Troy, and it will be interesting to see which events he ends up specializing in.
Their other big recruit is Eric Solis from Holland, Michigan. Yet another middle distance swimmer; Solis’ best events are the 200 breast (2:01.6), and the IM’s, where he’s even better than Signorin. His high school bests in the medleys are 1:48.5 and 3:51.3. Although he has the potential to become a very good sprint breaststroker for Florida, he is too good at the IM’s to focus on sprint training.
A late addition to this class was Canadian Karl Wolk, who could be the most important addition for the balance of the program. Wolk holds several National Age Group records in Canada, and is a sprint butterflier and freestyler. Over the summer, he qualified as Canada’s second 100m butterflier for the Pan Pac Championships, and proceeded to turn in a 47.4 (converted) there. He can also be expected to come to campus at a 45.0 100 free or better, and should be a big help to the Florida relays.
The rest of the recruiting class is filled out with above average sprinters, like Jon Nunez (20.84/45.55) and Brad deBorde (20.69, 44.83). The most intriguing prospect might be Levar Goossen, who is Dutch born, but has been living in Kuala Lumpur (and the world-known International School Kuala Lumpur). He is a sprinter with some fairly good times (converted 21.43/47.1 from SCM), but without much competition or high-level training. To bring in a swimmer with those kind of times from halfway around the world, Troy must have seen a huge amount of potential for Goossen once he gets to Gainseville and trains at a high level for the first time.
A fringe benefit of signing Goossen is that his little brother Emiro, who is only going in to his sophomore year of high school, is swimming sprint times (22.4, 49.2) that put him on par with some of the top 50 or so American sprinters in his age bracket. Florida loves to pull in whole families of stars (Fraser brothers, Lewark brothers in diving), and could end up getting a younger, even better Goossen brother in 3 more years.
Florida didn’t have any NCAA qualifiers in diving last season, but might be able to sneak a few in this year. Junior Anthony Lewark has a chance at qualifying (and an outside shot at a B-final) on the platform, and Collin Bell could slide in on the 3-meter. Mike Lewark, little brother of Anthony, also has a shot at a 3-meter spot.
2011 Prognosis: I can’t see the 2010-2011 version of the Florida Gators moving up from their 5th place ranking. They lost a ton of points from (Shaune) Fraser and Pinzon, and their best returning swimmer, Dwyer, can’t pick up that many points. This team is going to struggle to win dual meets with their lack of depth. If they had unlimited entries at NCAA’s, and it was spread over more days, this team would be a National Championship contender, but they don’t.
Their small recruiting class is good, but isn’t impactful enough to surge Florida forward in year one. Gregg Troy says that his team is full of overachievers, and how can you help but overachieve with the coaching staff they have, so there could be some surprises, but as it stands, this is no better than the 7th best team in the nation.