Video is courtesy of the University of Florida.
Key Losses: Jamie Bohunicky (1 NCAA relay, 24 NCAA points), Lauren Neidigh, Sarra Lajnef, Sharla Milne, Corinne Showalter
Key Additions: Megan Rankin (UCLA transfer – distance free), Georgia Hohmann (UK – backstroke), Taylor Katz (FL – distance free/fly), Danielle Valley (FL – distance free), Autumn Finke (FL – distance free), Alyssa Yambor-Maul (FL – fly/back)
2012-2013 Lookback: Florida finished 6th at last year’s NCAA Championships when they had twelve women qualify in Indianapolis, Indiana. Their team was relatively on the younger side, utilizing mostly freshman for their relays. With 124 points scored by relays alone, and 181 individual points from last year that all return, Florida easily can make a move upwards in the 2013-2014 season.
Elizabeth Beisel is undoubtedly a star for the Gators. With a 5th place finish in the 200 IM, 3rd place finish in the 200 backstroke and a national title in the 400 IM, Beisel will be returning for her final year of NCAA eligibility as the leader for the Gators. Beisel was a senior in high school the year the Gators won the 2010 title, and she could find herself leading the team to a title this year.
While the likes of Elizabeth Pelton and now Missy Franklin in the 200 backstroke, her regaining her national title from that event in 2012, seems like a long shot. Beisel should be able to repeat her title in the 400 IM this season and fight her way to a title in the 200IM as well on day 1. Troy will also look to her for big swims on the 400 and 800 freestyle relays, and possibly preliminary swims in the medley swims to rest Russell for finals.
Natalie Hinds was a stud freshman in her first NCAA performance last year. Swimming major legs on the sprint relays, she also finished 9th in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly and a powerful 3rd in the 100 freestyle. Her time in the 100 freestyle was a new team record at 47.73.
If you’ve seen Hinds in person, her potential still is sky-high. With Megan Romano graduating, Hinds will duel with senior Margo Geer from Arizona in the 100 freestyle, making for an exciting race this March.
Sinead Russell was runner-up in the 100 backstroke as just a freshman. Russell made her second final in the meet, when she finished 6th overall in the 200 backstroke. Her classmate teammate, Ahslee Linn finished 14th overall in the 200 backstroke.
Junior Ellese Zalewski really shined on the second and third day last March. She finished 3rd in the individual 100 butterfly race in the meet. Her time of 51.50 was a new team record in preliminaries, plus if she could have repeated that time at night, she would have walked away with a championship title. Zalewski was able to follow her this performance on the last night of the meet, when she finished right behind Hinds in the 100 freestyle in 4th.
Another solid freshman performance came from Jessica Thielmann as she finished 10th in the 500 freestyle (4:38.10). She backed up her distance performance in the 1650 freestyle, where she finished 6th. Her teammate junior Alicia Mathieu, dropped seven seconds off her personal best to finish 5thin this event last year, as well.
Taking a look at their relays, their 200 freestyle relay finished 8th, with three legs being freshman. Experience will only work in their favor for this season.
The 400 medley relay was also 50% freshman as well, that finished 8th. The relay order of Beisel, Luthersdottir, Hinds and Russel probably wasn’t the best line up for the Gators. This relay is on day one of the meet, so it is all on judgment calls by the coaches. Changing the order with their flat starts from day two last year to Russell (1.0 faster), Luthersdottir, Zalewski (1.1 faster) and Hinds (.4 faster), it makes the relay 2.5 seconds faster.
In the short medley relay, the Gators who once again were half freshman, half juniors finished 3rd. What’s more impressive is that junior Zalewski had the fastest time on the field in the 50 butterfly split, and freshman Hinds had the second fastest 50 split on the anchor leg.
Zalewski, Rusell, Beisel and Hinds teamed up together on the final event of the championships to finish 6th in the 400 freestyle relay. These four women swam a lot of races the whole meet, but stayed tough and set a new UF school record.
The only swim the Gators have to from last season is from Jamie Bohunicky who swam on the 800 freestyle relay that finished 7th. And Bohunicky had the slowest split on the relay, so the Gators are in good shape heading into the 2013-2014 season.
Summer Success: Elizabeth Beisel won bronze this summer in the 400IM at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona. Outside, Beisel, Sinead Russell and Hilda Luthersdottir had their highest international finishes in their respected events. Russell finished 7th in the 200 backstroke and 9th in the 100 backstroke this summer in Barcelona, while Luthersdottir semi-finaled in her breaststroke events.
On American soil, Alicia Mathieu finished 5th in the 1500m freestyle at the World Championship trials this past summer. Plus, she also swam in the consolation final at the US Open in August in the 400m freestyle. Her performances this summer, set her up well for the senior season with the Gators, in hopes for a couple All-American performances in her respected distance freestyle events.
Diving: If we remember back to the 2010 NCAA Championships, Florida distinctly won because of the swimmer and divers working together to clinch the title. The Gators now as solely a swimming scoring team, with no divers qualifying the championships last March.
The Gators brought in no divers for the new season also, so it looks like they will be looking to just score in the swimming pool this season. Sophomores Delaney Dye, Emily Mosher and Kahlia Warner competed at the Diving Zones last season and Warner may be the best bet for a NCAA qualifier for the Gators. She joined the program in the spring last year, and scored in the top 8 on the springboards at Zones.
Freshman: We previously ranked the incoming class from the Gators at #8 overall. The class is a bit on the small side, but while Greg Troy really loaded up relay pieces last year, the focus on this class seemed to be swimmers who can score big points individually at NCAAs.
The Gators have a strong Sarasota YMCA swimmers from the duo of Danielle Valley and Taylor Katz.
Danielle Valley used her 2012 experience at the Olympic Trials to make a name for herself this past summer. She finished 2nd in the 800 freestyle and 1st in the 400 and 1500m freestyle. Those performances in the 400 and 800 earned her a spot on the USA Swimming Junior National Team.
In short course yards, during her last year of high school, she improved her 200 free to a 1:47.8, her 500 free to 4:40.9, and her mile to 16:01.6.
Her teammate Taylor Katz didn’t have quite the same success as a senior, but still comes in with very good times. She boasts a 1:47.2 in the 200 free and a 4:43.6 in the 500 free. She also showed a bit more versatility during her senior season. She was also a 55.3 and 1:58.9 in the 100 and 200 yard butterfly races, plus also consolation finaling the 200 butterfly this summer at Junior Nationals.
The two of them will battle for the last spot on the 800 freestyle relay, since the Gators are returning 3 of the 4 legs of the race. But that spot could also go to Megan Rankin, a sophomore transfer from UCLA.
Rankin’s high school bests were 4:43 in the 500 yard free and 16:10 in the 1650 yard freestyle, plus a 2:00 in the 200 fly and a 4:16 in the 400 IM. That time in the 1650, even without improvements, would’ve put her 9th at the SEC Championships last year, and the 500 would’ve placed her in the B-Final as well.
To compliment the three in the distance freestyle races is Autumn Finke. Finke has bests of 4:52/16:32 in the 500 and 1650 freestyles.
Georgia Hohmann comes from the UK and their historically deep backstroke ranks. In long course meters, she’s been 1:01.6 in the 100 and 2:09.7 in the 200 meter backstroke. The last British backstroker who made her way to Florida became a World Record holder. Hohmann isn’t quite as versatile as Gemma Spofforth was, but she’ll dive right in with sophomore training partner Sinead Russell.
Rounding out the class is Alyssa Yambor-Maul, a classic butterfly/backstroker. Her bests of 55.6/1:58.0 in the backstroke races and 55.2/2:01.5 in the butterfly races, aren’t exciting now, but could end up helping at the SEC level in the next year or two.
2013-2014 Outlook: The Gators are about one sprinter away from being national title contenders. For example, it was one leg on their 200 and 400 freestyle relays that cost them a top 3 spot in both of those races. This will be Gregg Troy’s biggest spot to fill, as the most obvious replacement from within the team, Fung, is no longer with the program, and his incoming freshmen tend toward the longer events.
The Gators aren’t afraid of a challenge this season, either. They find themselves with back-to-back meets against last years No. 2 Cal Bears away and then No. 1 Georgia at home. Plus they will swim No. 3 Tennessee before their mid season meet at the Ohio State Invitational at the end of November.
Normally, the Gators are not too hot in season, due to their training and how broken down they are, though the 2012-2013 season saw better in-season performances from this team than we typically have gotten. But the fact that they will face the top three teams from last year, show how the Gators aren’t afraid to swim against the best, even when they’re tired. This type of meet schedule will only make them tough, as most of the girls who will be scoring at NCAA this March will be swimming a full schedule, which is up to 14 swims in three days.
So, while the Gators may not surprise us during the season, expect them to be in contention for a trophy this season at Minnesota. They seem like a shoe-in for the top 5, if they hit their tapers, with an outside shot at a top-2 finish.