Competitor Coach of the Month: Jeff Poppell, Florida

Competitor Coach of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based coach who has risen above the competition. As with any item of recognition, Competitor Coach of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one coach whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a coach who was clearly in the limelight, or one whose work fell through the cracks a bit more among other stories. If your favorite coach wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.

After scoring just 11 points at NCAAs in 2018 (and zero the year before), the Florida Gator women are projected to score nearly 200 this year in our current Swimulator rankings, good for 8th nationwide.

While the Florida men surged, the Gator women had struggled mightily under the last few years of the Gregg Troy regime. New head coach Jeff Poppella former Troy assistant, has revitalized a team now separate from the men’s program with which it used to be combined.

Of Florida’s 11 points last year, 8 came from diver Brooke Maddenwhose contributions aren’t accounted for in the Swimulator (which uses in-season times to track only swimming points projected). In addition to junior Sherridon Dressel (who scored the other 3 points last year), the Gators have six other women ranked inside the top 16 nationally at the moment, along with two more close. You can see the full list below, including current projected Swimulator points and each swimmer’s output last season.

2019 Swimulator 2018 NCAAs
Total 195 11
Relays 73 0
FRESHMAN Vanessa Pearl 43 N/A
FRESHMAN Leah Braswell 32 N/A
JUNIOR Kelly Fertel 23 0
JUNIOR Emma Ball 12 0
FRESHMAN Mabel Zavaros 9 N/A
JUNIOR Sherridon Dressel 2 3
SOPHOMORE Taylor Ault 1 0
SENIOR Hannah Burns 0 0
JUNIOR Savanna Faulconer 0 0
JUNIOR Brooke Madden ??? 8

And the returning swimmers are by-and-large swimming much faster this fall than they did at this time last year. Here’s a comparison of top times from this season and last season among the upperclassmen appearing in our Swimulator ranks:

Fall 2017 Fall 2018
JUNIOR Kelly Fertel 200 IM 1:59.45 1:56.05
400 IM 4:08.60 4:06.50
JUNIOR Emma Ball 100 BK 51.78 52.17
JUNIOR Sherridon Dressel 100 BK 53.62 52.57
200 BK 2:02.18 1:54.57
SOPHOMORE Taylor Ault 500 FR 4:44.00 4:42.08
1650 FR 16:21.67 16:14.26
SENIOR Hannah Burns 200 IM 2:00.18 1:57.85
400 IM 4:13.16 4:11.09
JUNIOR Savanna Faulconer 400 IM 4:09.14 4:10.72

Then, too, the freshman class has been sensational. Poppell and his staff have three freshmen already ranked within NCAA scoring range in the Swimulator, and all three have gone lifetime-bests within their first three months as Gators:

New Lifetime-Bests
FRESHMAN Vanessa Pearl 200 BR 2:08.04
200 IM 1:55.25
400 IM 4:05.07
FRESHMAN Leah Braswell 500 FR 4:37.83
1650 FR 15:59.47
FRESHMAN Mabel Zavaros 200 BK 1:53.10
200 IM 2:01.14
400 IM 4:10.12

In fact, Florida’s freshmen are currently ranked to score 84 points in the Swimulator – more than any other program in the nation, including the top-ranked recruiting class from Stanford (projected: 68 points).

About Competitor Swim

Since 1960, Competitor Swim® has been the leader in the production of racing lanes and other swim products for competitions around the world. Competitor lane lines have been used in countless NCAA Championships, as well as 10 of the past 13 Olympic Games. Molded and assembled using U.S. – made components, Competitor lane lines are durable, easy to set up and are sold through distributors and dealers worldwide.

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2 years ago

Bravo Coach!

2 years ago

He is the REAL DEAL in every way. Keep em going Coach.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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