Key Additions: Brennan Balogh (NE – Back/Fly/IM), Bayley Main (NZL – Sprint Free/Bk), Ross Palazzo (OH – Breaststroke/IM), Alex Katz (FL [Michigan transfer] – Freestyle), Jan Switkowski (POL [Virginia Tech transfer] – Freestyle/Butterfly/IM), Alex Lebed (PA – IM), Samuel Smith (TEN – Diving)
Other Additions: Grady Heath (FL), Jack Szaranek (SCO), Stanley Wu (CA)
Key Losses: Dan Wallace (35 NCAA Points, 2 Relays), Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez (19 NCAA Points, 2 Relays), Carlos Omana (5 NCAA Points), Matt Elliott (4 NCAA Points), Christian-Paul Homer (3 NCAA Points, 1 Relay), Richard Munch (1 NCAA Relay), Matt Curby (1 NCAA Relay)
The University of Florida Gators had a terrific campaign last season, highlighted by their 3rd consecutive SEC title after they halted Auburn’s 16-year run in 2012. They then had a strong showing at NCAAs, finishing 5th overall. 5th is down from their 3rd place finish in 2014, but better than they were in 2013 (6th). Falling from 3rd to 5th is understandable, considering Florida lost Sebastien Rousseau, Bradley Deborde and Marcin Cieslak last season who scored a combined 104 individual points at NCAAs in 2014. They also had a less than stellar recruiting year other than the major addition of Caeleb Dressel.
Despite the major losses they faced, the Gators still dominated SECs, winning by 180 points. Leading the way was Dressel, with a victory in the 100 fly, 2nd place finishes in the 50 and 100 free, and contributions on 3 relays. They had many more podium finishes, including quite a few from their departing seniors. Dan Wallace, Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez, Carlos Omana and Christian-Paul Homer were all seniors and all produced a top-3 finish. Other swimmers who stepped up and swam very well were juniors Corey Main and Pawel Werner, sophomores Mitch D’Arrigo and Jack Blyzinskyj and freshman Mark Szaranek. Their relays were solid throughout, with the highlight coming in the men’s 800 free relay where they broke their own SEC meet record. That relay was at the end of the first night of finals, and the momentum created by the team in that race really carried over to the next day and the Gators never looked back.
They then performed well at NCAA finishing 5th. Dressel stole the show again for Florida, with his victory in the 50 free (18.67) coming just one one-hundredth shy of Nathan Adrian’s American record. Dressel and senior Dan Wallace tied for the team lead with 35 individual points. Wallace started out with a great performance in the first individual final of the meet finishing 2nd in the 500 free for the second straight year. Large contributions also came from Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez, Mark Szaranek and Mitch D’Arrigo. They had many others chip in some individual points, which added up. Their relays were solid all around, contributing 100 points of their own. They ultimately finished 30 points behind USC and 39 ahead of Stanford.
Dressel Looks To Continue Momentum After Terrific Summer
After just one season of college swimming, sprinter Caeleb Dressel is rapidly becoming of the biggest names in United States swimming. He capped off his rookie year in Florida winning the NCAA title in the 50 free, and had an even more impressive summer. At US Nationals Dressel won both the 50 and 100 freestyle, posting times competitive with the best in the world. His 50 free was particularly impressive, as his posting of 21.53 made him the 3rd fastest man in the world this year and would’ve put him into a position to medal at the World Championships. Dressel will look to build off the momentum he created for himself this summer in his sophomore season at Florida. With a few of their key swimmers having graduated after last season, Dressel will be called upon to play an even bigger role for the Gators this season. It will be interesting to see how Dressel swims this college season as he has his sights ultimately set on the 2016 Olympic Trials and Olympic Games.
Gators Lose 67 Individual NCAA Points
Florida has a lot of their top performers from last year returning, and they also have a solid recruiting class, but they still will suffer from some key losses this season. Their biggest loss is Great Britain’s Dan Wallace, who had an outstanding summer earning a gold medal at the World Championships as a part of Britain’s 4×200 free relay. He also had top finishes in the 200 IM (4th) and 400 IM (6th). Wallace was a leader on this team, and scored 35 individual points at NCAAs. The other big loss Florida has to overcome this season is Spain’s Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez, who was a big contributor at NCAAs as well. Solaeche-Gomez scored 19 individual points, including a 7th place finish in the 200 IM. Other notable swimmers they are losing include Christian Homer, Matt Elliott, and Carlos Omana. All 4 contributed individually at the NCAA level. The combined losses of Solaeche-Gomez, Elliott and Richard Munch leave Florida with a lack of breaststroke talent on their roster. Caeleb Dressel is actually the fastest 100 breaststroker they have from last season, but his main focus will obviously be the sprint freestyle. There’s a good chance he’ll be their breaststroker moving forward, unless someone steps up.
Mediocre Recruiting Class Bolstered By Transfers Switkowski, Katz
The two most accomplished swimmers from Florida’s rookie class might just come from their two transfers. At least in terms of long course metres swimming. I think a lot of people were surprised after they saw what Poland’s Jan Switkowski did at the World Championships this summer. Swimming in lane 7 in the mens 200m butterfly final, Switkowski wasn’t given much of a chance by anyone. An unknown polish swimmer just 21 years of age facing off against some of the most well known flyers in the world, he would be about the last person someone would pick for a medal. Switkowski was 8th to the 50, 7th to the 100 and 6th to the 150, before he dropped the hammer. He moved up from 6th to 3rd, earning the bronze medal.
Switkowski swam for Virginia Tech in his freshman year during the 2013-2014 season, but took last season off to focus on swim training in his home country. He certainly fits the bill of the typical Florida Gator, as he is talented in a variety of events, from freestyle to butterfly, and even IM. His yards personal best times are solid, but his performances at worlds show he has more. He went 1:54.2 in the 200 fly and 1:47.0 in the 200 free, making him a top tier contender in those events this season at NCAAs. Of course, it is difficult to know how ones long course performances translate to their short course yards swimming, but at the very least he should be able to deliver anything from a consolation final appearance to multiple medal performances at NCAAs.
Florida didn’t score 1, but 2 top-tier transfers this season. Transferring from Michigan is Florida native Alex Katz, who has some impressive long course best times of his own. Katz has been 1:50/3:53/8:04 in the 200/400/800 freestyles, 1:58 in the 200 back and 4:22 in the 400 IM long course, all very impressive. His yards time aren’t as impressive, so he and Switkowski will both have to work on how they can translate their long course success to SCY prosperity for the Gators this season.
Along with Switkowski and Katz, Florida landed plenty of solid recruits who will come in and help right away. Their top recruit was Brennan Balogh, who was the 16th ranked recruit in this class. Talented in multiple events, Balogh should be able to come in and score at the SEC level right from his freshman year. He specializes in the 200 back, 200 fly and IM events. They also picked up Corey Main’s brother, Bayley Main, who is a decent sprint freestyler. His long course best times of 23.5 and 51.4 definitely show signs of potential, and his 57.4 LC 100 back will also be an asset. Ross Palazzo and Alex Lebed are their other top swimming recruits. Palazzo is a breaststroker/IMer, and Lebed is a pure IMer with no standout stroke but also no relatively weak stroke. They both come in with times that would be good enough for C finals at SECs, but there is a lot of room for improvement. These recruits have a hard working, talented squad to get to know, train with, and ultimately learn from.
Florida is returning the one diver who scored at NCAAs last season, Zach Hernandez, who has been granted a redshirt and will return for this fall. Hernandez squeaked out a 16th place performance in the platform event at NCAAs, an impressive result considering he only finished in the top-16 in one of the three diving events at SECs (platform).
Last season freshman Robert Goss was Florida’s other lead diver, as he had two top-16 finishes at SECs (platform-15th, 3 meter-16th). Qualifying for his first NCAA Championship this season would be an impressive accomplishment as he heads into his sophomore year. This season Goss will be joined by incoming freshman Samuel Smith, who comes in with some impressive credentials. Smith had a pair of 4th place finishes at the USA Diving Junior Nationals in 2014 in the 1-meter and 3-meter events, and had his best senior national finish in 2012 where he was 14th on the platform at the National Diving Championships.
Other Key Swimmers
- Corey Main will be a valuable asset for the Gators in his final season. Last season Main swam on 4 NCAA relays and came close to scoring individually in multiple events. He had top-8 finishes in all of his individual events at SECs, showing a wide range of versatility in the freestyle and backstroke events. He will be relied upon heavily again this season, especially in the relays.
- Also going into his final year with Florida is Pawel Werner, who, like Main, was very valuable on the relays last year. Werner swam on the 200 and 800 free relays at NCAAs, and just missed scoring in his only individual event (200 Fr-17th). Werner was a workhorse at SECs, swimming on all three free relays and scoring in his individual events. Werner will be a key cog in the Florida machine this year.
- Arthur Frayler is another one of Florida’s men who is entering his final season. Frayler had top-16 finishes at NCAAs in the 500 and 1650 freestyle events, and had top-8 finishes in the same events at SECs. He should be a good bet for another strong season and provide some points come NCAAs.
- Backstroker Jack Blyzinskyj will be another key member of the Gators this season. Last season Blyzinskyj managed to score individually at NCAAs in the 100 backstroke and earned first team All-American honors in the 200 and 400 medley relays. Blyzinsky also had top-5 finishes at SECs in the 100 back and 100 fly, including finishing 2nd in the 100 back. He will likely be the Florida’s man again for the backstroke leg of the medley relays this season, something he has gotten a lot of experience doing his first two years in Florida.
- Mark Szaranek burst onto the college swimming scene last season with some impressive performances in his freshman year. The man from Scotland finished 7th in the 400 IM, 10th in the 200 IM and was on Florida’s 10th place finishing 800 free relay at NCAAs, providing some valuable points. Of all returning swimmers, only Caeleb Dressel (35) scored more individual points at last years NCAAs than Szaranek did (19). Look for him to be a standout performer for Florida this season.
- Along with Dressel and Szaranek, Mitch D’Arrigo will be very valuable for Florida this season. With the loss of Dan Wallace, D’Arrigo’s ability in the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyle events will become even more important. He was able to score in all three at NCAAs last season, and placed top-2 at SECs in all three. He will likely take on more of a leadership role this season with the losses of Wallace and Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez, and will be the go-to guy to lead their 800 free relay into battle.
Florida comes into the 2015-2016 season looking good. Despite enduring some tough losses from last season, they don’t have it as bad as some of their competition. They also have a solid recruiting class. Though not outstanding by any means, they gained two potential steals by way of transfers, as Jan Switkowski and Alex Katz join the squad. Both have more impressive credentials in long course, so if they can transfer that over to yards Florida could be even better than most expect.
Stanford, the team that finished behind Florida at NCAAs, are losing their top two swimmers David Nolan and Tom Kremer for the season, and Georgia, the team that finished behind Florida at SECs, lose both Nic Fink and Chase Kalisz for the season. Based off of that, Florida doesn’t look like they’ll move down at either championship meet this season, and should 4-peat as SEC champions. The 4 teams Florida trailed at NCAAs last season (Texas, Cal, Michigan, USC) all come in looking very good and will be difficult to overcome.
As it looks now, Florida is likely to repeat their finishing position from last year at both championship meets, but of course things can change in the blink of an eye. An interesting twist the Gators have in their schedule this season is they have a pair of long course dual meets against some SEC rivals. On October 30th they’ll battle Georgia, and on Janary 23rd they’ll face-off with Auburn (both at home). It’s something different and to keep your eye on, as the teams have many swimmers preparing not only for SECs and NCAAs, but also the Olympic Trials/Olympic Games later in the year.
All in all, Florida should be a very strong team this season. They have a wide range of talent throughout their roster, and look poised to win another SEC Championship title and place top-5 at NCAAs.